2017 Volume 56 Issue 6 Pages 641-649
Objective Hypercholesterolemia, a risk factor in cognitive impairment, can be treated with statins. However, cognitive decline associated with "statins" (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) is a clinical concern. This pilot study investigated the effects of combining statins and regular exercise on cognitive function in coronary artery disease (CAD) patients with prior mild cognitive decline.
Methods We recruited 43 consecutive CAD patients with mild cognitive decline. These patients were treated with a statin and weekly in-hospital aerobic exercise for 5 months. We measured serum lipids, exercise capacity, and cognitive function using the mini mental state examination (MMSE).
Results Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were significantly decreased, and maximum exercise capacity (workload) was significantly increased in patients with CAD and mild cognitive decline after treatment compared with before. Combined statin-exercise therapy significantly increased the median (range) MMSE score from 24 (22-25) to 25 (23-27) across the cohort (p<0.01). Changes in body mass index (BMI) were significantly and negatively correlated with changes in the MMSE. After treatment, MMSE scores in the subgroup of patients that showed a decrease in BMI were significantly improved, but not in the BMI-increased subgroup. Furthermore, the patients already on a statin at the beginning of the trial displayed a more significant improvement in MMSE score than statin-naïve patients, implying that exercise might be the beneficial aspect of this intervention as regards cognition. In a multivariate logistic regression analysis adjusted for age >65 years, sex, and presence of diabetes mellitus, a decrease in BMI during statin-exercise therapy was significantly correlated with an increase in the MMSE score (odds ratio: 4.57, 95% confidence interval: 1.05-20.0; p<0.05).
Conclusion Statin-exercise therapy may help improve cognitive dysfunction in patients with CAD and pre-existing mild cognitive decline.