Understanding Cholesterol and Alzheimer's Risk

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

As we have often noted, cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity, and high overall cholesterol can increase the likelihood of getting Alzheimer's disease (AD). A study published earlier this week in the Archives of Neurology may have shed more particular light on the relationship between cholesterol and AD.

According to researchers at Columbia University, high levels of HDL cholesterol (the "good" form), are 60% less likely to develop AD. They followed 1,130 seniors with no history of memory loss or dementia and measured their cholesterol levels every 18 months for four years. Their findings supported the theory that high levels of HDL cholesterol are correlated with lower incidence of AD.

While this has excellent face validity in that high HDL levels have been correlated with better cardiovascular heatlh in other studies, there is no compelling biological explanation of how or why elevated HDL's would reduce risk for AD. Also, earlier studies on HDL's and AD, conducted by the National Institute on Aging, showed the opposite result. That is, high HDL cholesterol was correlated with a higher risk of AD.

The relationship between cholesterol and AD risk is an area of ongoing study with many questions yet unanswered. However, based on the well documented vascular benefits of controlled cholesterol, it is wise to keep overall cholesterol and HDL cholesterol within the established ranges of good health.

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