Study: High cholesterol in midlife raises risk of late-life dementia

By | August 4, 2009 cholesterol levels in midlife – even levels considered only borderline elevated – significantly increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia later in life, according to a new study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente’s Division of Research and the University of Kuopio in Finland. The study appears in the journal Dementia & Geriatric Cognitive Disorders.

The four-decade study of 9,844 men and women found that having high cholesterol in midlife (240 or higher milligrams per deciliter of blood) increases, by 66 percent, the risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Even borderline cholesterol levels (200 – 239 mg/dL) in midlife raised risk for late-life vascular dementia by nearly the same amount: 52 percent. Vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, is a group of dementia syndromes caused by conditions affecting the blood supply to the brain. Scientists are still trying to pinpoint the genetic factors and lifestyle causes for Alzheimer’s disease.

By measuring cholesterol levels in 1964 to 1973 based on the 2002 Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines (the current practice standard) when the Kaiser Permanente Northern California members were 40 to 45 years old, then following the participants for 40 years, this study is the largest long-term study with the most diverse population to examine the midlife cholesterol levels and late-life dementia. It is also the first study to look at borderline high cholesterol levels and vascular dementia, rather than just Alzheimer’s disease.

“Our study shows that even moderately high cholesterol levels in your 40s puts people at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia decades later,” said the study’s senior author. Rachel Whitmer, Ph.D., a research scientist and epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. “Considering that nearly 100 million Americans have either high or borderline cholesterol levels, this is a disturbing finding. The good news here is that what is good for the heart is also good for the mind, and this is an early risk factor for dementia that can be modified and managed by lowering cholesterol through healthy lifestyle changes.”

via High cholesterol in midlife raises risk of late-life dementia, Kaiser Permanente study finds.

3 thoughts on “Study: High cholesterol in midlife raises risk of late-life dementia

  1. Stephen Guy-Clarke

    Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the heart
    In TCM it is said the ‘heart houses the mind’. The heart is considered the main organ governing mental activities and its links to the brain. Put another way, there is a mutual effect and correlation between the heart dominating the vessels and the vessels supplying the mind.
    To give an example of how emotional stress can have a physiological effect, here is an extract from an article published in the Daily Mail in March 2006 entitled ‘ Row with your loved one hurts the heart’ where it was reported that a three year study of older married couples found their arteries hardened and narrowed after they were involved in arguments, raising their risk of heart disease.
    For women, this happened when the row took on a hostile nature. But for men it occurred only when either they or their wife acted in a dominating and controlling manner. American scientists asked 150 couples in their 60s and 70s to discuss a sore topic such as money or their in-laws for six minutes. Each conversation was observed by psychologists who gave a point score for friendly, hostile or dominant behaviour. Two days later the couples were given CAT scans to show the extent of atherosclerosis. The results revealed that the couples who had the most stormy rows showed the most signs of having narrowed arteries.
    Tim Smith, Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah, said, ‘Disagreements are an unavoidable fact of relationships, but the way we talk during disagreements gives us an opportunity to do something healthy. If you were concerned about men’s heart health, you would ask couples to find ways to talk about disagreements without trying to control each other. If you were concerned about women’s heart health, you would encourage couples to find ways to have disagreements that were not hostile.’

  2. rendev

    According to a study in the University of Michigan, announced Statins may reduce the risk of dementia and loss of memory. But some people advice not to use statins in preventing dementia due to the side effects of drug.
    Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have had a rough time of it lately. Thank you for sharing this article, this is very informative.

  3. Low Cholesterol Foods

    […]Low Cholesterol Foods. When you first learned that your cholesterol level is too high, you might start to imagine the illnesses you will have to suffer if you cannot reduce the cholesterol level in your blood[…]

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