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High levels of good cholesterol may combat risk of Alzheimer’s

by nickj on December 14, 2010

Columbia University's Archives of Neurology issued a study on Monday that found that maintaining high levels of HDL (or "good") cholesterol may lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease by as much as 60 percent.

According to the research, those study participants with the highest levels of HDL were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's over the course of four years than those with the least amount. All 1,130 participants were at least 65 years old, with no history of dementia or Alzheimer's.

They received blood, brain and memory tests at 18 month intervals. At the end of the four years, at least 101 of the participants had been diagnosed with the disease, reports WebMD Health News.

HDL helps remove the fat buildup in blood vessels that LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, contributes. The beneficial properties of HDL could help with Alzheimer's-linked plaque buildup in the brain, lead researcher Christiane Reitz told Bloomberg News.

"This is what we call an associated finding. They didn't explain cause and effect, but we know very clearly that what's good for the heart is also good for the brain and vice versa, so that's one theory," medical news correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton told CBS.

Alzheimer's disease, which causes the deterioration of brain cells and impairs memory and cognitive function, afflicts at least 60 percent of those who are over 95 years old and at least 36 million people all over the world. The cause for the disease is still unknown, but it has been linked to factors such as cholesterol, hypertension, weight and diabetes, according to Bloomberg.

However, "HDL was the only [factor] which actually stayed significant and was not explained by any of the other risk factors. For HDL it seems to be an independent association with Alzheimer's disease, independent of diabetes, high blood pressure and so on," Reitz told WebMD News.

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