Mid-aged women with high cholesterol not at risk for Alzheimer

Thursday, November 11, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new Johns Hopkins-led research has found that high cholesterol levels in middle age do not appear to increase women’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.

It found that women whose cholesterol levels decline from middle age to old age are at 2.5 times greater risk of developing the memory-wasting diseases than those whose cholesterol stayed the same or increased over the years.

“Our research refutes the notion that high cholesterol in midlife is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, at least among women,” said Michelle M. Mielke, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s lead author.

As part of the study, the women were given physical exams, heart tests, chest x-rays and blood tests. The group was also surveyed for smoking habits, alcohol and medication use, education and medical history.

Women were assessed for dementia throughout the 32 years of follow-up between 1968 and 2001. In 2001, 161 of the original group had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but the youngest group was just reaching age 70.

Mielke says that later in life, women with slightly higher body mass index, higher levels of cholesterol and higher blood pressure tend to be healthier overall than those whose weight, cholesterol and blood pressure are too low.

But it is unclear whether “too low” cholesterol, BMI and blood pressure are risk factors for dementia or if they could be signs that dementia is developing, she said. For example, an inadvertent loss of weight often precedes the development of dementia, she said, but the exact cause is unclear.

The research has been published online in the journal Neurology. (ANI)

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