Alzheimer’s is affected by the level of bad and good cholesterol in the body, according to a research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Neurology, (JAMA Neurology.) The higher the level of bad cholesterol, or LDL’s, and the lower the level of good cholesterol, or HDL’s, the more beta amyloid plaque that develops in the brain. Beta Amyloid plaque affects a patient’s cognitive abilities and memory by “tangling” up the brain cells.
LDL stands for low density lipoprotein, and HDL stands for high density lipoprotein. Cholesterol is an essential steroid in the body that keeps cells permeable, as well as aids cell membrane function. The majority of cholesterol in the body is manufactured by the liver.
However, when cholesterol levels exceed the normal range, that is when beta amyloid plaque builds up.
Although patients with high cholesterol benefit from drugs like Simvastatin, it has not yet been proven that these drugs will prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s. Researchers are excited about the possibilities of preventing Alzheimer’s through proper diet and exercise. It is also expected that more studies will show that statins will reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Now a doctor whose patient has a high LDL cholesterol number can counsel his patient on proper nutrition and exercise routines to fit their lifestyle. Statins may be prescribed as well, depending on the patient’s medical history. The future of dementia looks pretty bleak under these circumstances.
The study is the first of its kind because no other study has found beta-amyloid proteins accumulating steadily and corresponding with high cholesterol and dementia symptoms. The treatment of elevated cholesterol involves not only diet but also weight loss, regular exercise and medications. After the age of 20, level testing is recommended every five years.
HDL’s are produced by foods such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. LDL levels increase with the intake of saturated fats and can be lowered by cutting out animal fats and instead eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains and fish. A diet with fish in it will help increase HDL levels and prevent plaque from building up in the brain. It is also best to eat more beans instead of starchy potatoes.
Thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week, can go a long way to prevent cholesterol levels from increasing. Exercise lowers LDL and increases good HDL cholesterol.
Professor Bruce Reed, a neurologist at the University of California-Davis who led the study, said: “Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease.”
Alzheimer’s disease is affected by cholesterol levels, which cause beta amyloid plaque to develop in the brain. More studies will show the effect of statin drugs on this disease. As always, healthy eating is preferable to a dependence on prescription medicines. Genetics may also play a part, and in those cases pills may be the only preventative.
By: Lisa M Pickering