High cholesterol may provide your brain with an advantage as you age.
A study of older people has found that having a total cholesterol level higher than it was in midlife is tied to a lower risk of marked cognitive decline in those aged 85–94. This was in stark contrast to the results found for the age group that was 10 years younger.
The findings showed that among study subjects aged 75–84, those whose total cholesterol was higher than it was in midlife had a 50 per cent higher risk of marked cognitive decline.
However, among those aged 85–94 whose total cholesterol was higher than it was in midlife, risk for marked cognitive decline was 32 per cent lower.
They found that among the cognitively healthy members of the group aged 85–94, having had a high total cholesterol level in midlife was linked to a reduced risk of marked cognitive decline.
"(The) results have important implications for researching genetic and other factors associated with successful cognitive ageing," according to study author Professor Jeremy Silverman.
For their analysis, the researchers examined data on 1897 participants from the Framingham Heart Study, all of whom had healthy cognitive function when they entered the study.
They investigated associations between total cholesterol levels and incidences of marked cognitive decline that emerged during the decades of follow-up as the participants progressed through their middle and later years of life.
The findings reveal the need to look more closely at different age groups in this type of research.
They challenge studies that have concluded that cholesterol is linked to higher risk for cognitive decline in older people — but those studies have mainly focused on adults up to the age of 75.
Prof Silverman points out that their findings should not be taken to mean that those aged 85 and older should now seek to raise their cholesterol levels.
"We don't think high cholesterol is good for cognition at 85," he adds, "but its presence might help us identify those who are less affected by it."
"We hope to identify genes or other protective factors for cognitive decline by focusing on cognitively healthy very old people who are more likely to carry protective factors."
Read the full study.
Have you had your cholesterol checked? How does this news make you feel about your latest cholesterol reading?
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