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High Cholesterol Might Be Linked to Alzheimer's Disease
Date:9/13/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests that high cholesterol levels could boost the risk of Alzheimer's disease by creating more brain-clogging bits known as plaque.

The finding doesn't directly prove that high cholesterol causes Alzheimer's disease or that lowering it would reduce the risk. Also, researchers didn't find any link between high cholesterol and tangles, which also clog the brain in those with Alzheimer's.

Still, the findings add to previous research that has linked insulin resistance to Alzheimer's disease, said study author Dr. Kensuke Sasaki. Better control of both cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, both risk factors for heart disease, "might contribute to a strategy for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease," said Sasaki, an assistant professor of neuropathology at Kyushu University in Japan.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association, and the number is expected to grow to 16 million by 2050 as the population ages. There's no known way to prevent Alzheimer's or cure it.

The researchers studied the brains of 147 people -- 76 men, 71 women -- who were residents of a Japanese town and alive in 1988 when they underwent clinical examinations. They all underwent autopsies between 1998 and 2003.

About one-third of them had been diagnosed with dementia during life, although they didn't show signs of it in 1988.

Compared with people with low cholesterol levels, those with high cholesterol levels were more likely to have the bits of protein in the brain known as plaques: 62 percent versus 86 percent, respectively.

But tangles, which are bits of another kind of protein, weren't more common in people with high cholesterol.

Dr. Marc L. Gordon, chief of neurology at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said the research is credible and intriguing.
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