New research has indicated that women who maintain elevated levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL; "good") cholesterol may ward off Alzheimer's disease. For the study, the researchers used data from the Women's Health Study?an ongoing study of cardiovascular risk factors. From 1992 to 1995, the researchers collected baseline health and lifestyle data from 39,000 women ranging from 60 to 75 years old, including blood samples from 75% of the cohort.
The researchers based their findings on cognitive assessments conducted on 4081 participants 65 years or older during 1998-2000. The results showed that the odds of cognitive impairment declined with increasing levels of HDL. In fact, women with the highest levels have half the risk of becoming mentally impaired, compared with those with the lowest HDL levels, stated researchers in their report presented recently at the International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders. Lead investigator Elizabeth Devore, a graduate student at the Channing Laboratory at Harvard Medical School, said the results are "good news because we know how to modify HDL." She noted, for example, that exercise, weight loss, and moderate alcohol intake have all proven to increase HDL levels.