We have talked a lot about working to keep your cholesterol levels in check in order to ensure long-term heart health. Now it seems that combating high cholesterol could also be really good for your brain in the long-run.
A recent high cholesterol clinical study from the University of California, Davis, showed that healthy levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lower levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol were associated with less amyloid plaque in the brain. Accumulation of this plaque is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
This research shows that healthy cholesterol levels rank right up with avoiding high blood pressure when it comes to brain health.
Mitigating the Deposit of Amyloid Plaque
“Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain,” said Bruce Reed, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center at UC Davis. “Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease.”
The results of this high cholesterol study were published in the December edition of JAMA Neurology.
74 men and women volunteered to be a part of this groundbreaking research. The investigative team recruited them from:
- Support groups
- California stroke clinics
- Senior-citizen facilities
- UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center
The minimum age for enrollment in the study was 70. The group could be broken up as follows:
- 3 people with mild dementia
- 38 with mild brain function impairment
- 33 with no brain function issues
Investigators measured the amyloid levels for each participant using brain scans. They found that higher fasting levels of LDL cholesterol and lower levels of HDL cholesterol both were linked to a higher concentration of amyloid plaque in the brain.
More clinical research is needed to tell us how cholesterol can affect the deposits of amyloid plaque in the subject’s brain.
Managing Cholesterol for More than Your Heart Health
Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood here in the U.S. Health experts recommend that people keep their HDL cholesterol levels around 60 mg/dL or higher. For those at risk for cardiovascular disease, their LDL levels should be no higher than 70 mg/dL.
People who show signs of dementia or other memory-related issues should work to maintain healthy all-around cholesterol levels— no matter their current heart health.
“This study provides a reason to certainly continue cholesterol treatment in people who are developing memory loss regardless of concerns regarding their cardiovascular health,” explained Reed. “It also suggests a method of lowering amyloid levels in people who are middle-aged, when such build-up is just starting.”
The most important revelation to come from all this research is the knowledge that we could possibly curb the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease by getting more people to track their cholesterol levels early on. This would mean a significantly reduced deposit of amyloid plaque later in life.