High levels of ‘HDL’ or the ‘good type’ of cholesterol are good for the brain as well as the heart, recent research finds.
Similarly, the ‘bad type’ of cholesterol (LDL) is worse for brain health.
The study found links between these cholesterol levels and amyloid plaques, a toxic substance associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Professor Bruce Reed, who led the study, said:
“Our study shows that both higher levels of HDL — good — and lower levels of LDL — bad — cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain.
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.”
For HDL, a level of 60 milligrams per decilitre of blood or higher is best.
For LDL, a level of 70 milligrams per decilitre of blood or lower is recommended.
Typical ways to increase HDL levels include:
- Weight loss
- Eating more fibre
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Professor Charles DeCarli, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center and study co-author, said:
“If you have an LDL above 100 or an HDL that is less than 40, even if you’re taking a statin drug, you want to make sure that you are getting those numbers into alignment.
You have to get the HDL up and the LDL down.”
The study involved 74 people over 70 years-of-age — around half of whom had mild dementia.
Professor Reed said:
“This study provides a reason to certainly continue cholesterol treatment in people who are developing memory loss regardless of concerns regarding their cardiovascular health.
It also suggests a method of lowering amyloid levels in people who are middle aged, when such build-up is just starting.
If modifying cholesterol levels in the brain early in life turns out to reduce amyloid deposits late in life, we could potentially make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, a goal of an enormous amount of research and drug development effort.”
The study was published in the journal JAMA Neurology (Reed et al., 2013).
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