In the world of medicine, there is “good” cholesterol, known as HDL, and “bad cholesterol,” also known as LDL.
People are always told to monitor their cholesterol to keep their heart healthy. Now there is another reason – it may keep your brain healthy too.
This British study, points to an association between low levels of “good” HDL and the loss of memory. Those with the lowest HDL levels, had scores that measured 27 percent lower in memory on a word test given at the age of 55.
Fast forward to age 60, and the loss had increased to 53 percent.
The study suggests that high levels of “good “cholesterol, HDL, may help prevent a decline in memory as the brain ages.
“Good” cholesterol is so named because it keeps arteries clear of deposits, while in “bad” cholesterol or LDL, deposits of the waxy-like substance called cholesterol tend to accumulate in the blood stream until they block an artery.
The study is published in today’s issue of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology (ATVB), an American Heart Association Journal.
3,673 participants, all British civil servants, were measured over decades. One quarter of them were women. The memory tests were given between 1995 and 1997 and again between 2002 and 2004. Participants were asked to read a list of 20 words and then write down as many as they could remember within two minutes.
Among those who showed the greatest decrease in HDL levels, there was a 61 percent increased risk in an inability to remember words, the study shows.
The other cholesterol, “bad” or LDL, or the total cholesterol number did not seem to have an impact on memory.
Researchers admit they do not understand the biochemistry involved in the results, and they stop short of recommending any action, as these results may apply to Alzheimer’s disease.
U.S. News talked to Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at the Mayo Clinic .
"In a general sense, other data are converging to indicate that managing vascular risk factors may be helpful in Alzheimer's disease," Petersen said. "This is supportive of that. But at the same time, we have to be very cautious about whether there is a direct link between HDL and mental function."
The bottom line is that physicians and patients should monitor their levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol as well as LDL (low-density lipoprotein) which can be done with a blood test.
And total triglyceride levels should also be measured. Triglycerides are a form of fat that is made by the body and also comes from food. People with high triglyceride levels often have high total cholesterol and high LDL and low HDL.
Cholesterol is made in the liver, about 1,000 mg a day, while 200 to 500 mg can come from food. Consumers should eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of transfats, as well as maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active, according to the American Heart Association . #