The link between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s

Many Americans worry about their cholesterol, but few actually understand what it means to have high cholesterol and how it can affect health and memory care. Having high cholesterol levels can put seniors at risk for developing heart disease and stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six adults has high cholesterol. As heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., most people only worry that high cholesterol could lead to cardiovascular complications. However, new research may show a link between high cholesterol levels and Alzheimer’s disease.

The good and the bad
When someone refers to high cholesterol, they are actually talking about a certain type. The body needs cholesterol, and it is a fatty, waxy substance in all cells. Bodies will naturally make all the cholesterol they need to help digest food and make Vitamin D and hormones, but it is also found in food. Proper senior nutrition can help lower harmful cholesterol levels. It travels through the bloodstream as lipoproteins. When too much cholesterol builds up in the blood, it can clog arteries and cause heart disease.

There are two types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoproteins and high-density lipoproteins. LDL are often referred to as the bad cholesterol, and too much of this type can lead to a buildup in the bloodstream. HDL on the other hand, are called the good cholesterol, because it carries cholesterol to the liver and out of the body. When someone wants to lower their cholesterol, they are speaking of LDL levels.

The Alzheimer’s link
New research from the University of California-Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center suggests that the same risks for developing heart disease due to high cholesterol levels may also put a person at risk for developing the cognitive disease. The study, published in Jama Neurology, revealed that those with high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol had a higher deposit of the protein amyloid in the brain. Amyloid is thought to eventually result in Alzheimer’s disease.

It is still not clear how cholesterol levels in the bloodstream are connected to levels in the brain. It is known that higher amounts of the good cholesterol can actually help prevent heart disease and may clear out amyloid at an early stage. Other research has shown that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, may also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

For seniors, the best course of action is to follow a doctor’s advice regarding cholesterol levels. Taking care to eat foods that will increase the food cholesterol levels and decrease artery-clogging cholesterol levels is the best course of action.

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Pete Blasi