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Lowering “Bad” Cholesterol Levels May Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

Posted in Public Health

According to a recent study, the results of which were summarized by HealthDay on MedlinePlus – a service of the US National Library of Medicine, keeping “bad” cholesterol levels under control may not only benefit the heart, but also the brain.

There are two kinds of cholesterol: HDL – “high density lipids” and LDL “low density lipids.”  In general, LDL is considered “bad,” for its loosely-packed structure further allows it to clog blood vessels.  Heart.org writes “When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.”

High levels of “good” cholesterol, on the other hand, “seem to protect against heart attack.” “Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it’s passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup.” (Heart.org)

The UC Davis study summarized by MedlinePlus fits well with what Heart.org writes: Bruce Reed, the study’s lead author states “Our study shows that “‘both higher levels of HDL and lower levels of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain’”.

A build-up of amyloid plaque in the brain “is an indication of Alzheimer’s disease.” (hyperlink added)

Reed states, “‘If modifying cholesterol levels in the brain early in life turns out to reduce amyloid deposits late in life, we could potentially make a significant difference in reducing the prevalence of Alzheimer’s, a goal of an enormous amount of research and drug-development effort’”.

While the researchers have yet to determine the precise mechanism by which cholesterol interacts with amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, for now we may conclude that we have yet another reason to keep LDL cholesterol levels in check.