High Cholesterol Levels Increase Alzheimer’s Risk By Up To 50%

A recent study, presented at the 60th annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology has found that high total cholesterol levels in middle age can raise an individuals risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 50%.

The researchers analyzed almost 10,000 men and women from Northern California who were initially between the ages of 40 and 45. The participants underwent health evaluations between 1964 and 1973 which included measurements of blood cholesterol and blood pressure. 30 years later, the researchers obtained medical records of the participants and determined that 504 (5.2%) people had developed Alzheimer’s disease while a further 162 (1.7%) had developed vascular dementia.

The researchers found that those people who had very high total cholesterol levels (between 249 and 500 mg/dL) in middle age were around 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those with low cholesterol levels (less than 198 mg/dL).Those with moderately high cholesterol levels (between 221 and 248 mg/dL were around 25% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

High cholesterol levels are an established risk factor for other diseases such as coronary heart disease and strokes however the ratio of HDL (the good cholesterol) to LDL (the bad cholesterol) is thought to be more important than total cholesterol levels in these diseases. This study however suggests that high cholesterol levels are a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease regardless of the type of cholesterol.

According to lead author Dr. Alina Solomon from the University of Kuopio in Eastern Finland “The association between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease is well known. What we know now is that minding heart health may protect your brain as well.”

Total cholesterol levels below 200mg/dL and LDL cholesterol levels below 120mg/dL are generally considered optimal.

A person can lower their cholesterol by losing weight, performing regular exercise, eating several small meals a day rather than one or two large ones, consuming mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats rather than saturated and trans fats, quitting smoking, consuming fiber rich foods or taking a fiber supplement, and switching to fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods.