02/18/2011 - Articles

Alzheimer's disease linked to mid-life cholesterol

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD

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Alzheimer's disease linked to mid-life cholesterol

Alzheimer’s disease takes many years to develop and, with an aging population, it has become increasingly urgent to discover ways of preventing this, the most common form of dementia, from taking hold. 

Previously,  high cholesterol in mid-life has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  Now researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Research Division and at the University of Kuopio, Finland, unveil the longest, and largest, study to link high cholesterol with Alzheimer’s disease.  They also find a link with vascular dementia,  which suggests some overlap in the two forms of dementia.

A group of nearly 10,000 men and women had their cholesterol levels measured between 1964 and 1973 and were then followed up for around 40 years. During this time, there were 469 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and 127 with vascular dementia.  Taking a baseline of less than 220 mg/dL cholesterol, the researchers say that raised levels increase the risk of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia in later years.  That is, having cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL increases Alzheimer’s disease risk by 66% and even borderline levels, between 220 and 240 mg/dL, increase the risk of both forms of dementia.  This study is notable because it includes a large and diverse group of people – previous studies on Alzheimer’s disease and high cholesterol have been more limited.

Around 100 million Americans are estimated to have cholesterol levels that are higher than desirable. Worse, many do not even know it! The take home message is to be aware of your cholesterol figures (this means total cholesterol but also the high and low density lipoprotein cholesterol figures).  And if they stray beyond desirable levels, there are both lifestyle modifications that can be made and medications, like statins, which are proven effective in cholesterol lowering.  It is surely worthwhile aiming for a healthy cholesterol figure if the payoff is a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

If you are concerned about Alzheimer's Disease, you might want to read the following articles

DIY Alzheimer's Test

Source: 

Solomon A, Kivipelto M et al Midlife serum cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer and vascular dementia three decades later Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders 2009;75-80 (doi: 10.1159/000231980)

Created on: 08/10/2009
Reviewed on: 02/18/2011

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ernestine barclift wrote 1 year 49 weeks ago

I REALLY HAVE NO COMMENT EXCEPT THAT I NEVER THOUGHT THEIR WAS A MEDICINE OUT THERE TO FIGHT INFLAMMATION I HAVE HAD SPINAL ARTHRITIS FOR MANY YEARS NOW AND MY DOCTOR SAYS THERE IS NO CURE JUST KEEP TAKING OVER THE COUNTER PAIN PILLS,I WAS HOPING THERE WAS SOMETHING BETTER THAN OVERCOUNTER ,UNTIL A FRIEND OF MIND LET ME READ ONE OF YOUR GREAT HEALTH MAGAZINES CONTAING OMEGA XL SO I WILL TRY THAT FOR MY ARTHRITIS PAIN.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 31 weeks ago

This type of research is exactly why clinical studies are so important.
It is important for patients and families affected by diseases such as Alzheimer’s to consider participating in clinical studies. One such study is the ICARA Study, whose goal is to explore if an investigational drug, called Bapineuzumab, can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. Clinical studies that test new treatments are the best chance we have for fighting this disease. Current therapies for Alzheimer’s treat the symptoms associated with it, not the disease itself.

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