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Cholesterol Levels Linked to Brain Changes of Alzheimer’s Disease

Study: High Cholesterol Predicts Brain-Clogging Protein Deposits on Autopsy
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Cholesterol and the Brain continued...

People who keep their cholesterol down as they age might therefore be able to reduce the risk of plaque formation, Sasaki says.

In Alzheimer’s, plaques are usually found in conjunction with another problem called tangles. Tangles are twisted fibers of tau protein that build up inside nerve cells.

It had been thought that a buildup of beta-amyloid might cause tangles and that growing numbers of tangles in the brain might lead to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Curiously, though, the study found that while cholesterol seemed to be associated with the development of plaques, it did not seem to influence tangles.

“This study lends credence to the notion that there may be different factors driving amyloid pathology versus tangle pathology,” says Marc L. Gordon, MD, chief of Neurology at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y. and an Alzheimer’s researcher at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.

He says the study may mean that sequence of brain damage in Alzheimer’s is less straightforward than “amyloid causes tangles causes disease,” Gordon says.

Important Questions Remain

Experts who reviewed the study for WebMD say its findings are valuable, since few studies have been able to connect blood cholesterol levels to physical changes that happen years later in the brain.

“There’s actually fairly little data on the relationship between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease pathology in humans,”says Zoe Arvanitakis, MD, an associate professor in the department of neurological sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“And really there’s little known about the relationship of cholesterol in earlier life to the development of Alzheimer’s disease in later life, and this study tried to get at those two points,” Arvanitakis says.

But Arvanitakis and other experts say the study has important weaknesses that limit what it can say.

“There’s a lot of missing pieces in the chain of evidence in this study,” says Adam Rosenblatt, MD, director of neuropsychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Rosenblatt says that although scientists have long suspected that cholesterol plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease, it is still not clear what that may be.

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Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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