In an editorial accompanying the paper, author Mary N. Haan said the findings suggest the need for different prevention strategies, depending on a person's life stage.
"Effective primary prevention of dementia may need to address early and midlife risk factors while, in late life, 'prevention' may necessarily focus on delaying progression of pathology and symptoms," noted Haan, who is a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
"There a lot of interest right now in trying to prevent dementia, especially Alzheimer's, mainly because none of the treatments work very well," said Haan, who added that one important take-home message for middle-aged and younger people who want to reduce their risk of dementia is to focus on other known risk factors.
"For example, there's a relatively strong and consistent set of evidence linking hypertension with late-life dementia," she said. "So if someone is 45 or 50, and hasn't been screened for hypertension in a while, it's a good idea to do so."
For more on cholesterol, diet and Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCES: Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of psychiatry, division of geriatric psychiatry and neuropsychiatry, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore; Mary N. Haan, Ph.D., professor, department of epidemiology &biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine; Lenore J. Launer, Ph.D., Chief, Neuroepidemiology Section, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.; Nov. 10, 2010, Neurology
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