High Cholesterol Might Be Linked to Alzheimer's
MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that
high cholesterol levels could boost the risk of Alzheimer's disease
by creating more brain-clogging bits known as plaque.
The finding doesn't directly prove that high cholesterol causes
Alzheimer's disease or that lowering it would reduce the risk.
Also, researchers didn't find any link between high cholesterol and
tangles, which also clog the brain in those with Alzheimer's.
Still, the findings add to previous research that has linked
insulin resistance to Alzheimer's disease, said study author Dr.
Kensuke Sasaki. Better control of both cholesterol levels and
insulin resistance, both risk factors for heart disease, "might
contribute to a strategy for the prevention of Alzheimer's
disease," said Sasaki, an assistant professor of neuropathology at
Kyushu University in Japan.
An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease,
according to the Alzheimer's Association, and the number is
expected to grow to 16 million by 2050 as the population ages.
There's no known way to prevent Alzheimer's or cure it.
The researchers studied the brains of 147 people -- 76 men, 71
women -- who were residents of a Japanese town and alive in 1988
when they underwent clinical examinations. They all underwent
autopsies between 1998 and 2003.
About one-third of them had been diagnosed with dementia during
life, although they didn't show signs of it in 1988.
Compared with people with low cholesterol levels, those with
high cholesterol levels were more likely to have the bits of
protein in the brain known as plaques: 62 percent versus 86
But tangles, which are bits of another kind of protein, weren't
more common in people with high cholesterol.
Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at the Zucker Hillside
Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said the research is credible and
intriguing. It adds to existing speculation that higher cholesterol
levels in midlife, particularly of so-called "bad" cholesterol,
boost the risk of Alzheimer's later, said Gordon, who's also an
Alzheimer's researcher at the Feinstein Institute for Medical
It's not clear how cholesterol may make plaques more common,
Gordon said, although cholesterol is found in plaques. It's
possible that high cholesterol could set off another process that
causes Alzheimer's, he said, or that something else "predisposes
you to be prone to Alzheimer's and raises your cholesterol
There's a twist: cholesterol levels and obesity appear to drop
in people who have dementia, although that may have something to do
with changes in their eating habits, Gordon noted.
The study is published in the Sept. 13 issue of the journal
For more about
Alzheimer's disease, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Copyright © 2011
. All rights reserved.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.