This is a contribution from a member of THINCS, 
The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics

August 19, 2003

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
Fax: 212-556-3622

One of the commonest causes of transient global amnesia that was not mentioned,
(Memorable, for the Loss of Memory, August 19) are statin medications.  As indicated
at the recent Weston-Price Foundation conference, transient global amnesia "has reached seemingly epidemic proportions in emergency rooms throughout North America and Europe..All of these cases are associated with the use of the stronger statin drugs such as Lipitor, Mevacor and Zocor. Sometimes only weeks go by after the start of the medication before symptoms begin. In other cases several years might pass before the onset of symptoms".  (see  Dozens of cases have been documented by the ongoing Statin Safety study at UCSD and the condition is undoubtedly underreported because most patients never make it to the emergency room or their complaints are attributed to a mild stroke in the case of senior citizens. However, many of the victims are in their forties and fifties whose symptoms occur abruptly and without warning.  Statins, and particularly Lipitor may also be associated with other cognitive defects such as severe confusion, difficulty in concentration and recent memory problems that improve with cessation of therapy. None of this should be surprising since cholesterol is a major constituent of cerebral structures and is intimately involved in brain communication so that any interruption in its synthesis might be expected to have detrimental effects.  Statins also interfere with the synthesis of Coenzyme Q10, a vital component of the electron ransport chain that converts calories from food to energy.  Many patients who experience statin side effects improve more rapidly after the medication is stopped when Co Q10 supplements are given.

Paul J. Rosch, M.D.

Professor Rosch did not get any answer from New York Times. Here is the article:


August 19, 2003


Memorable, for the Loss of Memory


I thought my husband, Ralph, was having a stroke. What else could cause a healthy 54-year-old man suddenly to become disoriented and confused? More than eight hours after the onset of his symptoms, the attending doctor at our local E.R. diagnosed a very strange disorder — amnesia — or transient global amnesia. It is a temporary brain affliction that affects about 23.5 per 100,000 people every year. After a second and third opinion, we were convinced that Ralph had experienced this rare but real phenomenon.  
     "I see about 150 cases a year," said Dr. Thomas Chippendale, a neurologist in San Diego and research director at University of California at San Diego. "There are probably many more cases out there that have been confused with symptoms of a stroke."
     There was no warning. On a beautiful morning at our home in San Diego, Ralph and I had a few hours free before brunch with his parents. I caught up on some paperwork while he worked out with some weights in the garage. With the teenagers away, we even
had time for a romantic interlude. 
     The amnesia came only moments afterward, which is why I thought he had suffered a ministroke, or transient ischemic attack, which can be caused by overexertion. 
     "Where are we going again?" Ralph asked. "I just don't remember what we're doing today."
     He began asking me more questions — over and over. He had dressed himself in clothes he claimed he had never seen before.
     When the paramedics pulled up in an ambulance, they took one look at Ralph and thought they had the wrong house. But after asking him a series of questions and running a few blood tests, they whisked him away. 
     At the hospital, I found Ralph joking with the nurses. He remembered who I was, his name — even his Social Security number — but not why he was there. 

     Blood work, a CAT scan and an M.R.I. were performed, which he promptly forgot about. 
     He knew our children's names and ages. He did not know what had happened on 9/11. He did not remember the space shuttle Columbia disaster, which had occurred only the day before. He had forgotten our recent trip to Europe, and he thought we lived in a house we had sold 12 years earlier. 

     His incessant questions grew tedious and I would occasionally make up a silly answer. He peppered his older brother Frank with constant questions, too. We were incredulous when the doctor finally diagnosed the problem. Amnesia? 
     "People are a little surprised when they hear about it, that it actually exists," said Dr. Roy Sucholeiki, an assistant professor of neurology at Loyola University Chicago Medical Center.
     "Amnesia," he said, referring to T.G.A., "has been a well-described phenomenon for more than 40 years." 

     "Clinically, it manifests with a paroxysmal, transient loss of memory function," he continued. "Immediate recall ability is usually preserved, as is remote memory. But patients can experience a striking loss of memory for recent events and an impaired ability to
retain new information. The good thing is it isn't fatal." 
     A few hours after we returned home that evening, Ralph's memory had, for the most part returned, except for the previous eight hours. That has forever been erased. 

     "It isn't likely to happen again," Dr. Sucholeiki said. "But there is a small, maybe a 5 percent, chance it will happen once more, and even a calculated recurrence rate could be as high as 24 percent over a lifetime, depending on his particular brain." 

     All of the doctors seemed to agree that the actual cause was not known. Some say extreme stress can be a factor, or weight lifting or sex. 
     Another theory is that it is sometimes set off by sudden immersion in cold water, but that clearly did not happen in this case. The doctors also agreed that this episode was not a sign of epilepsy or a stroke, was not life-threatening and happened more than people knew. 

     The long-term effects at our house have been minimal. Ralph has not suffered any visible side effects, although he does occasionally stop and wonder whether he knows what is going on around him. It also took us a while to get romantic again. 
     "At my age, if you're healthy and something out of the blue hits you, amnesia is the perfect affliction," he recently told me. "I now have the perfect excuse for forgetting our anniversary and your birthday."

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