Health & Fitness

HDL, “Good” Cholesterol May Lower Alzheimer Risk

Kristen Sparrow • December 16, 2010

At Columbia University’s Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, they’ve done a study looking at Alzheimer risk and HDL, the “good” portion of cholesterol. If your HDL cholesterol is very high, this may be protective. In fact patients with high levels of HDL were less than half as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.

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‘Good’ Cholesterol May Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

The people who reaped the benefit had very high HDL blood levels that exceeded 56 milligrams per deciliter of blood, the study reported. They developed 60 percent fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease than people with the lowest HDL levels, of 38 milligrams or below…
But the HDL was only protective at extremely high levels, Dr. Reitz said. “It really only makes a difference if you’re higher than 56 [milliliters],” she said.

The report, published in the Archives of Neurology, is not the first to find that what’s good for the body may also good for the brain. Numerous studies have found that older people who walked the most were at lowest risk of developing vascular dementia, possibly because the regular exercise improves cerebral blood flow and lowers the risk of vascular disease.

Regular physical activity, in general, is believed to improve brain function, both by increasing blood flow to the brain and by stimulating the production of hormones and nerve growth factors involved in new nerve cell growth. Exercise also raises levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Studies have found that animals that are kept physically active have better memories and more cells in their hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for memory. And exercise can help stave off or keep in check diseases like Type 2 diabetes, which increase the risk of developing dementia…

Some medications, like niacin and fibrates, may help raise HDL levels, Dr. Reitz said. But she recommends a Mediterranean diet rich in healthy fats from nuts, fish and olive oil, along with exercise, adding, “Aerobic exercise helps a lot.”

In a previous post, I discussed a study that looks at insulin resistance and acupuncture and how acupuncture can help with this aspect of metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. I hope it’s not a stretch to think that acupuncture might help increase HDL cholesterol by increasing insulin sensitivity. Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but for sure acupuncture can help to get you walking again if you have knee, back or hip pain!