People may be able to reduce their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by lowering their cholesterol, especially if they also have cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at Universitӓt Heildelberg Network Aging Research in Germany found people have a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease if they carry the E4 gene variation of the protein apolipoprotein (ApoE), which helps with the metabolism of blood lipids and transports cholesterol to nerve cells.
About 20 percent of the German population carries the ApoE4 gene variation.
“Both high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease are potentially avoidable, and in many cases a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce high cholesterol,” says study lead Hermann Brenner, MD, professor and deputy director of the Network Aging Research, in a news release. “What’s good for the heart is also good for the brain and memory. This appears to be especially important for carriers of the ApoE4 risk factor.”
Researchers studied all three protein variations cholesterol levels using blood samples and medical data from two independent epidemiological studies of 1,800 older adults who also took cognitive tests for memory and concentration capacity. Their findings have been published online first in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders.
The ApoE4 variation was found to also increase the risk of developing arteriosclerosis, a narrowing of the arteries because of fatty deposits. Arteriosclerosis can cause serious cardiac problems and supports the development of dementia. It is thought to be caused by high so-called “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood and is common among ApoE4 carriers. High cholesterol, in turn, is an independent risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Read more about the study here.