Having higher HDL, or "good" cholesterol, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests.
Experts say the new study, which was published Monday in the Archives of Neurology, is further evidence of a link between heart disease and dementia, and if the finding is backed by more research, doctors think it may point to a way that people can reduce their risk of both brain and heart trouble later in life, by boosting HDL.
"If you do things for your coronary vascular health, it clearly appears to modify your Alzheimer's risk as well in a way we don't completely understand," says James R. Burke, MD, PhD, associate director of the Bryan Alzheimer's disease research center at Duke University in Durham, NC, who was not involved in the study.
"It's been clearly demonstrated that you can have a big bang for your buck in terms of your heart with HDL, and now there's initial evidence, at least, that people who have the lowest levels of HDL at least are at a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, and perhaps if you modify that, then you would modify your risk," Burke says.
Researchers at Columbia University in New York followed 1,130 seniors who had no history of memory trouble or dementia.
Every 18 months for an average of four years, participants got a battery of blood, brain, and memory tests. By the study's end, doctors had diagnosed 101 cases of suspected Alzheimer's disease.