Sunday, February 20, 2011

Keeping Cholesterol in Check May Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s

There are many benefits to keeping your cholesterol in check, but a new reason has surfaced: reducing the chance of Alzheimer’s in old age. In a new study out of Columbia University, researchers found that there is a correlation between the level of HDL cholesterol and the probability of Alzheimer’s, with up to a 60% reduction in risk if the HDL is high enough.

Cholesterol is a waxy-fat type substance that is produced naturally by your body. It helps protect nerves, make cell tissues, and produce certain hormones. But when there is too much cholesterol in the blood, the excess builds up on the walls of the arteries, causing them to narrow and harden. Large deposits of cholesterol can completely block an artery.

There are two types: LDL and HDL. An easy way to remember which one is which is that the LDL is "Lousy" cholesterol. You don't want your "lousy" score to be too high. On the other hand, think of HDL as "Healthy," something that is good for you. LDL low is the main source of cholesterol build-up in your arteries, and this is what can lead to decreased blood flow to your heart, even to blockage. HDL is quite the opposite. It can help keep the blood flowing through your arteries at full speed ahead, a benefit for reducing the risk of heart attack.

The Columbia study followed 1,130 participants over the age of 65 from 1999-2001. After adjusting for age, sex, education, ethnic group, APOEe4 genotype, vascular risk factors, and lipid-lowering treatment, participants with a baseline HDL-C of more than 56 mg/dL (the highest quartile) had the lowest odds for Alzheimer’s, with a 60% reduction of risk. Researchers diagnosed "probable" Alzheimer's disease when a diagnosis of dementia could not be explained by any other disorder and "possible" Alzheimer's when it was the most likely cause of dementia. They found that the average age of onset for all Alzheimer's cases was 82.9.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is not known, but early detection of Alzheimer’s disease can affect the outcome and slow the eventual slide into full-blown dementia. Dietary habits are important in keeping cholesterol in check and diminishing the probability of Alzheimer’s.  Common wisdom recommends that you should keep your saturated fat intake to 10 percent of total calories per day, and replace saturated fats with healthier alternatives whenever possible. Steer clear of unsaturated and trans fats (often found in processed foods). Instead, look for polyunsatured fats (also known as Omega-6 fatty acids) and monounsaturated fats. They are found in vegetable oils, fish, bananas, avocados, nuts and sunflower seeds, among others.

Source: HealthNews By Susan Brady

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