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Midlife Heart Risk Factors Linked to Later Dementia
Date:8/4/2009

High cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and smoking raise Alzheimer's risk

TUESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The things that are bad for your heart in the middle years of life -- high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes -- are bad for your brain in later years, new research indicates.

High cholesterol levels in midlife were associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia many years later, according to scientists in California and Finland, who tracked almost 10,000 men and women for four decades.

"We found an association not only with high blood cholesterol, but also borderline high levels," said study senior author Rachel Whitmer, who is a research scientist and epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente division of research in Oakland. Researchers at the University of Kuopio in Finland also participated in the study.

Total cholesterol levels of 240 milligrams per deciliter or higher in middle age were associated with a 66 percent higher incidence of Alzheimer's disease decades later, the researchers found.

"But that wasn't a cutoff point," Whitmer said. "Around a level of 200, the risk of Alzheimer's disease started to go up."

For those in midlife with borderline-high readings between 200 mg/dl and 239 mg/dl, the increased incidence was 52 percent, according to the study, which was published online in the journal Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders and funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The Californians in the study were more ethnically diverse than the Finnish participants, and included blacks, Latinos and Asians, but "the association between high cholesterol and dementia was the same across all ethnic groups," Whitmer noted.

The other research, reported in the August issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, followed more than 11,000 American participants i
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