Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Study: Midlife Cholesterol Not Linked to Alzheimer’s

Cholesterol Level Doesn’t Predict Alzheimer’s in Old Age, New Study Finds
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 10, 2010 -- New research finds no link between high cholesterol in midlife and Alzheimer’s disease in old age.

Scientists followed a group of Swedish women for three decades -- from middle age to old age -- and found no increase in Alzheimer’s risk among women whose cholesterol was high in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

The finding appears to contradict several earlier studies, which did suggest a role for elevated midlife cholesterol in the development of late-life dementia.

But many of those studies only included people who survived long enough to develop Alzheimer’s disease, which could have influenced the outcomes, says researcher Michelle M. Mielke, PhD, who is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Because we followed people from middle age, we were able to look at the predictive value of cholesterol levels for developing dementia,” she tells WebMD.

Alzheimer’s and Cholesterol

The study included 1,462 women, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s at enrollment.

All the women had physical exams and completed lifestyle surveys when they entered the study and at various times later on. Neuropsychiatric exams were performed over the 32 years of follow-up. Women who survived to age 70 also underwent more extensive periodic testing for dementia.

During 32 years of follow-up, 161 women developed dementia.

The researchers concluded that cholesterol levels measured in middle age did not predict progression to Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

But a link was seen between rapidly declining cholesterol levels in the elderly and dementia.

Women whose cholesterol decreased the most from middle age to old age were more than twice as likely to develop dementia as women whose cholesterol levels increased or stayed the same.

Mielke says rapidly declining cholesterol late in life appears to be associated with increased frailty and may be an early sign of dementia.

“Around 10 years before people develop symptoms of dementia they tend to become more frail,” she says. “They may be forgetting to eat and start to lose weight, which can impact cholesterol levels.”

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression