Research Study Testing Statins to Slow Alzheimer's
With more Americans living into their 80s, 90s and beyond,
medicine is looking for new ways to keep people physically and
mentally healthy as they grow older.
"For many years, we thought losing your memory was an
inevitable consequence of aging, but now we know that's not
true," says Murali Doraiswamy, M.D., chief of the division of
biological psychiatry in the department of psychiatry and
behavioral sciences at Duke University Medical Center.
Doraiswamy says a growing body of data suggests that a
heart-healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, may help
to delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other age-related
degenerative brain disorders. Now researchers are investigating
whether certain medications may provide similar benefits.
Duke is one of approximately 40 sites around the country
taking part in the CLASP
Study, a national clinical research study funded by the
National Institutes of Health.
Doraiswamy says CLASP (Cholesterol Lowering Agent to Slow
Progression of Alzheimer's Disease) is designed to investigate
the safety and effectiveness of drugs commonly used to help
lower cholesterol. High cholesterol levels are a common warning
sign for heart disease and stroke.
"Although this is not proven, many of the drugs that we
thought were traditionally effective only for treating heart
disease or diabetes may also be surprisingly useful for either
delaying Alzheimer's disease or for improving brain function,"
explains Doraiswamy, who is principal investigator for the Duke
The drugs to be studied at Duke are statins, popular
medications that control cholesterol.
"We are conducting a large research study at Duke, which is
part of a national study, to look at whether a certain statin,
called simvastatin, may actually be useful for slowing the
progress of Alzheimer's disease.
"The traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as
being overweight, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol
or high sugar levels, can also be bad for your brain," says
Doraiswamy. "A number of drugs also seem to affect the brain
changes that may lead to Alzheimer's disease. As with diet and
lifestyle, what's good for your heart may also be good for your