A study being conducted on the onset of Alzheimer’s might be attributed to cholesterol. The study is showing risk factors connected to this heart damaging substance, has been observed in high levels in Alzheimer's patients.
"One of the important themes emerging from dementia research over the past 15 years is that there are intriguing connections between vascular disease and Alzheimer's disease," Bruce Reed, who led the research, told Reuters Health by email.
Reed is a professor and associate director of the University of California Davis Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.
"It has become increasingly clear that what have been traditionally thought of as vascular risk factors - things like hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol - are also risk factors for Alzheimer's disease," Reed said.
Reed and his research team have discovered a connection to vascular risk (heart disease) with the brains level of amyloid.
"Amyloid deposition is important because it is widely believed by scientists to be a key event that initiates a chain of events that eventually, years later, results in the dementia of Alzheimer's disease," Reed said.
"There was also previous work in cell cultures and with animals that suggested that cholesterol plays an important role in promoting the deposition of amyloid in the brain," Reed said.
For the new study, published in JAMA Neurology, 74 elderly people were studied who had normal to mildly impaired cognitive function. Their brain deposits of beta amyloid protein were studied as well.
Those people who had high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol also had higher levels of amyloid in their brain.
"We think this is a very important finding, but as with all novel findings it needs to be replicated," Reed said. "Assuming that the basic pattern is found in other groups of patients, it is urgent that we try to understand the mechanism(s) behind this finding."
"Cholesterol in blood and cholesterol in brain are separate 'pools,' walled off from one another by the blood brain barrier. We measured cholesterol in blood. So that is one question that needs to be answered - how do cholesterol levels in blood and in brain influence each other," Reed said.
Reed and his team have not proven directly that cholesterol is the cause of amyloid deposits in the brain, it could be attributed to vascular damage and stroke, which could have left these deposits in the brains of those tested.
People are encouraged to seek their doctors advice, and work to get to a safe level of cholesterol as set by the AMA - American Heart Association.
"A remarkable number of people who are alive now will live into their 80s or beyond - the period of highest risk for Alzheimer's. This study is one more piece of evidence that what we do now can shape our health positively in those years," Reed said.
The best bet is to work on lowering your cholesterol by eating foods that can help to not only protect your heart, but also your brain.
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