Scientists find surprising link between high “good cholesterol” and dementia

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A comprehensive study led by Monash University has revealed a surprising connection between very high levels of HDL-C, commonly known as “good cholesterol,” and an increased risk of dementia in older adults.

The study, published in The Lancet Regional Health—Western Pacific, is a significant step in dementia research. It focused on older adults, mostly over the age of 70, who were initially healthy.

These individuals were part of the ASPREE (Aspirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) study, a large-scale project examining various health aspects in older people.

Over about 6.3 years, the researchers kept an eye on participants with unusually high levels of HDL-C, which is often considered beneficial for heart health.

They found that those with HDL-C levels over 80 mg/dL (2.07 mmol/L) had a 27% higher chance of developing dementia.

This risk increased to 42% for participants aged 75 and older, compared to those with HDL-C levels considered optimal for heart health.

It’s important to note that these very high HDL-C levels are not typical and are not usually related to diet. Instead, they might indicate a metabolic disorder.

The study included 18,668 participants, and out of these, 2,709 had these very high levels of HDL-C at the start of the study.

Dr. Monira Hussain, the study’s first author and a senior research fellow at Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, highlighted the need for more research to understand why very high levels of HDL cholesterol could increase the risk of dementia.

These findings could change how doctors look at older patients’ health, especially those aged 75 and older. While HDL cholesterol is essential for cardiovascular health, this study suggests a need to investigate its role in brain health further.

Considering very high levels of HDL cholesterol in predicting dementia risk could be beneficial. However, understanding the exact mechanisms behind this link requires additional research.

The ASPREE study, a part of this research, is a comprehensive trial that began enrolling participants in 2010. It initially recruited over 16,000 participants aged 70 and above from Australia and over 2,400 participants aged 65 and above from the US.

The participants had no history of cardiovascular disease, dementia, physical disability, or life-threatening illness when they joined the study.

Currently, ASPREE is in its observational follow-up phase, known as ASPREE-XT (Extension), where researchers continue to monitor the health outcomes of the participants.

In conclusion, this groundbreaking study from Monash University opens a new avenue in understanding dementia risk and its possible link with cholesterol levels. It emphasizes the complexity of brain health and the need for continued research in this field.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and blueberry supplements may prevent cognitive decline.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and Coconut oil could help improve cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.

The research findings can be found in The Lancet Regional Health—Western Pacific.

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