High levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol might lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, suggests a new study. The Columbia University study, published in the latest edition of the journal Archives of Neurology, has found a close association between heart health and risk of dementia.
It is estimated that nearly 36 million people throughout the world suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory problems. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age. Current therapies and medications could only treat some of the symptoms of the disease. However, they could not halt the progression of the disease.
High levels of HDL in the blood could considerably lower the risk of heart problems. Researchers have found that heart trouble makes an elderly person vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The Columbia University study team tracked the cognitive health of 1,130 elderly people without a history of dementia or memory problems. At the end of the four-year long study period, 101 participants in the study were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
While comparing the cholesterol levels of the subjects with and without dementia, the researchers found that participants in the study with HDL levels above 55mg/dL had sixty percent lower risk of developing memory problems than participants with HDL level below 39mg/dL.
The study further showed that elevated levels of good cholesterol in the blood significantly lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease despite presence of other risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and a family history of Alzheimer’s disease.
Although the researchers have found a direct association between high levels of HDL and lower risk of memory trouble, the study has not revealed the cellular pathway through which HDL prevents dementia. Scientists speculate that perhaps by lowering the risk of stroke and improving the health of the heart, HDL reduces the risk of memory problems associated with stroke.
The HDL level in men should remain above 40mg/dL. In women, the HDL level should not fall below 50mg/dL. However, for healthy living, the optimal level of HDL in both men and women should be above 60mg/dL.
Omega-3 fatty acids present in fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds and whole grains, monounsaturated fats found in olive and canola oil and dietary fibers could boost the HDL level.