Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia in adults. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, its exact cause is not known and there is no known cure, but it seems we are getting closer to finding the answers.
Most of you probably have heard that elevated cholesterol levels can increase your risk of heart disease, as can elevated blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and excess weight. But have you heard about the link between elevated cholesterol levels and dementia?
The results of a 40-year study of more than 9,800 people, published in 2009, showed that those in their 40s with high or borderline cholesterol had a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia later in life.
Adults who had even moderately elevated levels of cholesterol also appeared to have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Your brain has a rich network of blood vessels, more than most other places in your body. These blood vessels nourish the billions of cells contained in the brain.
One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s is the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain that basically starve the cells, causing them to die. This is similar to the way that clogged coronary arteries can kill off parts of the heart during a heart attack.
A 2011 study based on autopsy results showed that the odds of adults with cholesterol levels greater than 224 having plaques in their brain were 25 times greater than those with cholesterol less than 224.
One of the researchers behind the 2009 study emphasized the importance of lifestyle in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, saying that keeping your weight down, eating right, and getting regular exercise not only can keep your heart healthy as you age, but it also may keep your brain sharp.
What does “eating right” mean? Most people know that reducing calorie intake will help lose weight, but if you are already at a healthy weight and still have elevated cholesterol levels, then a diet that avoids foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as meat, eggs, cheese, butter, and ice cream may help.
If you don’t know your cholesterol number, the CGH Health Foundation offers a monthly screening that includes results for total cholesterol, HDL (good) and LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
Contact me at 815-625-0400, ext. 5716, or at sherry.deWalt@cghmc.com for more information.