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"Good" Cholesterol Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

"Good" Cholesterol Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia

New research suggests that either a high or a low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, commonly known as “good” cholesterol, is linked to an increased risk of dementia in older adults. More than 55 million people in the world have dementia, a group of symptoms that affecting memory, thinking and social abilities.

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” because it can lower the risk of heart disease by removing other forms of cholesterol from the bloodstream and taking it back to the liver where it’s broken down and removed from the body. In the recent study, researchers followed more than 180,000 adults with an average age of 70 for over 10 years. They found that those with the highest levels of HDL cholesterol were 15 percent more likely to develop dementia and those with the lowest levels had a 7 percent higher rate of developing dementia compared to older adults with middle range HDL cholesterol levels.

While more research is needed, the study points to the fact that keeping HDL cholesterol within a certain range -- over 40 mg/dL for males and over 50 mg/dL for females -- is crucial for brain and cardiovascular health. You don’t want HDL levels to be too high. For example, people who naturally have extremely high HDL levels, above 100 mg/dL, appear to be at higher risk of heart disease, likely caused by genetic factors.

Some people have naturally higher levels of HDL, while others have lower levels because of a metabolic syndrome like obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels. Lifestyle changes like regular exercise, eating right, limiting alcohol and quitting smoking can help keep cholesterol levels in check, as are medications depending on your situation. More research needs to be done on the correlation between cholesterol and its effects on the body, but for older adults, understanding the role cholesterol plays in the development of dementia is important to discuss with your healthcare provider. Regular check-ups with your doctor can help keep tabs on your cholesterol levels.