‘Good cholesterol’ and dementia: Researchers chart a correlation


Despite its nickname as the “good cholesterol” because of its cardiovascular benefits, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol was linked to as much as a 42 percent increased risk for dementia in older people with very high levels of HDL, according to research published in a Lancet journal, the Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific.

Although HDL helps remove cholesterol from people’s arteries, the researchers wrote that, at very high levels, HDL’s structure and actions change, and it “may become deleterious to health” in various ways.

For more than six years, they tracked 18,668 study participants, all 65 or older and all physically and cognitively healthy at the start of the study. In those years, cognitive dementia was diagnosed in 850 participants (4.6 percent).

Those with very high HDL levels were more likely to have developed dementia than were those with more optimal HDL levels. For instance, the oldest participants with high HDL levels (those 75 or older) were 42 percent more likely to have developed dementia than those with normal HDL levels, and overall, anyone with high HDL levels had a 27 percent increased risk for dementia.

For adults, an HDL level of 40 mg/dL or higher is considered healthy for men and 50 mg/dL or higher is considered a healthy level for women. For the study, very high levels of HDL were considered to be 80 mg/dL or higher.

The researchers wrote that the increased dementia risk from high HDL levels “appeared to be independent of traditional dementia risk factors, including physical activity level, alcohol intake, education, diabetes or smoking,” as well as genetic influences.

The researchers indicated that the reason for the link between high HDL levels and dementia risk was “unclear” and that further study would be needed to explain the connection.



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