Cholesterol, the infamous contributor to strokes and heart attacks, can also cause problems in other areas of your body. In this case, you brain. Studies have linked cholesterol to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Before getting into the relationship between cholesterol and AD, it’s important to know the difference between good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol.
HDL is the good cholesterol. It’s been shown to protect against heart attacks and strokes. It also prevents LDL from sticking to your blood vessel walls and clogging your blood. Your body produces HDL through exercise – about 3 hours a week of moderate exercise should increase your HDL levels and keep you healthier! LDL is bad cholesterol. This is the stuff that sticks to your blood vessels and clogs them up. This leads to heart attacks and strokes. Both of these are produced by the body, but you get a quarter of them from food. Eating healthy and exercising regularly will keep your cholesterol levels in check!
So how does cholesterol relate to AD? A study was conducted that involved 9,752 men and women who underwent health evaluations between 1964 and 1973 (they were between 40 and 45 year old) and stuck to the same health plan through 1994. From 1994 to 2007, researchers obtained the participants' most recent medical records. They found that 504 people were diagnosed with AD.1
Those with cholesterol levels between 249 and 500 milligrams were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop AD than ones with cholesterol levels below 198 milligrams. People with total cholesterol levels of 221 to 248 milligrams were about one-and-a-quarter times more likely to develop AD2
So what numbers should you be aiming for? According to a particular study, you should aim to get your HDL above 40 and your LDL below 100.3 In a nutshell, you should aim to get your HDL high and you LDL low. Furthermore, to reap the heart protecting benefits of HDL, you should aim to keep yours at 60 or higher. If you are at high risk for heart disease, you should keep your LDL below 70 as opposed to simply below 100. This same study postulates, “Whatever is good for the heart is good for the brain.”
Remember, these studies show correlations. A correlation does not imply causation. Regardless, that’s not a reason to dismiss these findings! High cholesterol is a condition that should be taken very seriously, especially during mid-life. If you believe that you may be at risk for high cholesterol or at risk for problems associated with high cholesterol, speak with your doctor. The sooner you take control of your health, the further away you will be from heart attacks, strokes, and Alzheimer’s Disease