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High Cholesterol in Middle Age May Not Raise Dementia Risk for Women
Date:11/11/2010

examined data from the Prospective Population Study of Women, which began in 1968 and consisted of 1,462 Swedish women between the ages of 38 and 60. The women were given follow-up exams at four intervals, the last of which occurred in 2001. In addition to receiving various heart tests, chest X-rays and blood tests, the women were also assessed for dementia at each exam.

In 2001, 161 of the original group had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. While there was no association between dementia and high cholesterol levels at mid-life when including all participants, the researchers did find that the risk of dementia increased from 8.9 percent for those who maintained or had increased cholesterol over the course of the study, while it increased 17.5 percent for people with the greatest decline in cholesterol.

The study teased out findings that echoed other studies: When including the baseline cholesterol levels of only the female participants who survived to old age, "there was a clear trend for high cholesterol to be associated with an increased risk of [Alzheimer's disease]," the researchers reported. Although women with the highest cholesterol levels showed a sixfold increase in risk for Alzheimer's disease compared to those with the lowest, researchers said that trend became statistically insignificant after adjusting for other variables.

Researchers also noted that their research was confined to Swedish women and might not be applicable to men and other ethnicities.

A leading dementia researcher praised the paper's design but had reservations about the findings. "This is a good study because one needs to take a life course trajectory when looking at these kinds of issues," said Lenore J. Launer, chief of the neuroepidemiology section at the National Institute on Aging. "But I think the results are a little bit inconclusive, mainly because of the small sample size."

Launer added that more studies are needed to "b
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