High midlife cholesterol has no relation to dementia: Study

Elevated midlife cholesterol was often related to development of dementia at a later stage. But a new study finds that high cholesterol levels have nothing to do with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers who monitored Swedish women for over three decades found that the risk was not higher among those with more cholesterol in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

“Because we followed people from middle age, we were able to look at the predictive value of cholesterol levels for developing dementia,” said Michelle M. Mielke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Researchers physically examined all 1,462 midlife women taken for study and surveyed them on their lifestyles. As a follow-up, after 32 years, neuropsychiatric exams were performed. Those who survived till the age of 70 also underwent more testing for dementia.

Researchers noted that only 162 of them developed dementia over the 32 years, and levels of cholesterol definitely did not predict any progression in the disease.  “Around 10 years before people develop symptoms of dementia they tend to become (frailer). They may be forgetting to eat and start to lose weight, which can impact cholesterol levels,” Mielke said.

However managing these high levels of cholesterol could prevent heart attacks from occurring.

“There is still good reason to be concerned about cardiovascular disease in relation to Alzheimer’s risk,” said Stanford University Medical Center professor of neurology and epidemiology Victor Henderson, MD. “In the absence of stronger data, I think it still makes a lot of sense to pay careful attention to managing cardiovascular risk.”

Another expert said interventions for preventing dementia are likely to be most effective many decades before mental decline becomes evident.“You can’t really hope to prevent dementia in an 80-year-old who already has symptoms,” said Mary Haan, DrPH.

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