Drugs frequently prescribed to treat high cholesterol also might help reduce the odds a person will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a new examination of Medicare data has found.

University of Southern California researchers discovered that women who took statins for at least two years lowered their risk by 15%. For men, the rate dropped by 12%.

“We looked to statins as a candidate because they are widely used and have resulted in the reduction of cholesterol,” said Julie Zissimopoulos, Ph.D., an assistant professor who led the investigation.

Prior studies have shown a link between cholesterol and the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease: the beta-amyloid plaques that interfere with memory and other brain functions. Full findings appear in JAMA Neurology.