Why bad cholesterol could bring on early Alzheimer’s

Imagine this…

You’re finally retired, learning how to salsa dance, going on month-long vacations to Europe, watching your grandkids graduate from high school and college when you’re blindsided by an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Your cognitive abilities start slipping quickly. Suddenly, you don’t know how much longer you’ll be able to remember your husband’s name let alone travel to Europe with him.

It’s hard to imagine getting such devastating news just as your golden years were getting, well, golden. But do you know what’s even harder to imagine?

Getting that news younger.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is always devastating. But when you’re under 65, it rocks your world in a whole different way. You stress about telling your friends and family. You worry how you’ll continue to make a living. You fret about how it will affect your kids — who you may still be supporting.

Calling it “life-altering” is an understatement.

That’s why there’s something I want to share with you that can help make sure neither of these scenarios happens to you…

There’s an Alzheimer’s risk factor that most people don’t realize is a risk factor. And it affects millions of Americans. Luckily, it’s a risk factor that can easily be abated through lifestyle changes — your cholesterol level.

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High LDL cholesterol linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s

It turns out that high LDL cholesterol really is as “bad” as everyone says it is. In fact, it’s so bad it could be putting you at risk for Alzheimer’s.

Past research shows that too much LDL cholesterol can increase late-onset Alzheimer’s risk. And now a new study from researchers at the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Emory University has linked LDL levels to early-onset Alzheimer’s too.

The study included data from 2,125 participants, 654 of whom had early-onset Alzheimer’s. Researchers examined their genome to look for the so-called Alzheimer’s gene (APOE E4) and other genetic factors that put people at risk for Alzheimer’s.

Only 10 percent of people with early onset Alzheimer’s had the Alzheimer’s gene. And only three percent had other genetic variants tied to Alzheimer’s. So, in most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, it’s caused by something other than genetics. But what?

Well, there’s no way to know for sure. But researchers did notice a connection between LDL cholesterol and early onset Alzheimer’s…

People with high LDL levels were more likely to have the disease than people with low levels. In fact, researchers think there could be a causal link between the two. But they need to do more research before they know for sure.

Lower LDL levels to lower Alzheimer’s risk

So, how do you lower your LDL levels (and Alzheimer’s risk) right now?

There are a lot of simple ways to do just that. Start by:

  • Eating a healthy diet. Focus on cutting ingredients that fuel bad cholesterol like trans fats and add more cholesterol-balancing nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids and fiber.
  • Exercising regularly. Moderate exercise reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and increases HDL cholesterol (the good stuff). So, try to squeeze in five 30-minute moderate exercise sessions per week.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking has an impact on HDL and LDL levels…and not a good one. So, if you haven’t done it yet, give up smoking for the sake of your cholesterol level (and about a million other reasons).
  • Cutting back on alcohol. Drinking moderate amounts of alcohol can improve your cholesterol levels. But too much alcohol contributes to high cholesterol.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Extra pounds cause the cholesterol in your blood to pile up. Luckily, eating healthy and exercising regularly will keep your weight (and cholesterol) in check.

Sources:

  1. Early-onset Alzheimer’s: Is ‘bad cholesterol’ a factor? — Medical News Today
  2. Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease — John Hopkins Medicine
  3. If You Have Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease — Alzheimer’s Association
  4. High LDL linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s — MedicalXpress
  5. Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol — Mayo Clinic
  6. Differential Effects of Aerobic Exercise, Resistance Training and Combined Exercise Modalities on Cholesterol and the Lipid Profile: Review, Synthesis and RecommendationsSports Medicine
  7. Effects of Smoking and Smoking Cessation on Lipids and Lipoproteins: Outcomes from a Randomized Clinical TrialAmerican Heart Journal
  8. Facts about alcohol and heart health — Harvard Health Publishing

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Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.