Risk of dementia linked to blood sugar, cholesterol levels at age 35

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A new study suggests that cholesterol and blood sugar levels at age 35 help predict Alzheimer’s disease, which is a leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older. Dani Ferrasanjose/Getty Images
  • Researchers have recently studied the link between cardiovascular measures and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • They found it low high density lipoprotein (HDL or “good” cholesterol), high levels of triglycerides and blood sugar from the age of 35 are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The authors conclude that early intervention to maintain healthy levels of HDL, triglycerides and glucose can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the fifth root cause deaths among Americans 65 and older. There is no proven way to prevent or slow the cognitive decline caused by AD.

Studies show that if the burden of vascular risk from the age of 55 predicted AD, whether or not this link is present in younger individuals is unknown.

Knowing when this link begins early could help researchers better understand Alzheimer’s disease as a chronic disease.

Recently, researchers at Boston University investigated the relationship between AD and vascular measures using longitudinal data.

They found that low HDL cholesterol, high triglyceride levels and high blood glucose levels from age 35 are linked to AD later in life.

The study appears in the journal Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“A lot of people know that high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and other health problems, but they don’t realize it’s also a risk factor for dementia,” said Dr. Katy Bray, head of public engagement at Alzheimer’s Research UK, who was not involved. in the study, says Medical News Today.

“The best evidence for keeping the brain healthy as we age is eating a balanced diet, not smoking, drinking within recommended limits, exercising regularly, and controlling blood pressure. and cholesterol.”

For the study, the researchers included data from 4,932 people who were part of the Framingham Heart Study. Participants had an average age of 37 at enrollment and underwent nine examinations every 4 years until age 70.

At each exam, researchers measured participants:

  • HDL and low density lipoproteins (LDL or “good” cholesterol)
  • blood sugar level
  • body mass index (BMI)
  • systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • number of cigarettes smoked per day

Beginning with the second exam, participants also underwent cognitive assessments to track the progression of cognitive decline.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found an inverse relationship between AD and HDL measured during the first, second, sixth and seventh exams.

The study also links AD to higher triglyceride levels on the first, second, fifth, sixth and seventh examinations, independent of medication.

Meanwhile, high blood sugar was significantly linked to the development of AD at every test.

The researchers also found no association between AD and LDL, BMI, smoking, or blood pressure on any test.

DTM also spoke with Dr. Allison B. Reiss, Associate Professor of Medicine at NYU Long Island School of Medicine and a member of the Medical, Scientific and Memory Screening Advisory Council of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Dr. Reiss was not involved in this research.

“The brain is full of cholesterol and needs cholesterol to grow and produce nerve cells,” she explained.

“The balance and transport of cholesterol in the brain is carefully controlled, and lipids are very important in brain function. The most important of the lipid-related proteins in the brain is ApoE, a protein that transports lipids within the brain and elsewhere.

“Some HDL particles contain ApoE (apoE-rich HDL), and this type of apoE-rich HDL is most concentrated in the brain. The quality and quantity of apoE-rich HDL may partly explain the link between Alzheimer’s disease and HDL,” she continued.

Xiaoling Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and biostatistics at Boston University School of Medicine, one of the study’s authors, said DTM that improved blood flow in the brain could also explain some of their findings.

She explained that HDL could increase transport and thus reduce the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaques, which are protein accumulations characteristic of AD.

Asked about the link between Alzheimer’s disease and glucose levels, Dr Zhang said higher blood glucose levels are linked to higher brain glucose concentrations and more severe plaques in the brain. brains with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know the brain depends on glucose for energy, but excess glucose in the brain can undergo chemical reactions that make it damaging and induce inflammation. When glucose levels are high for long periods of time, chronic neuroinflammation can result.

– Dr. Reiss

“Another problem with high blood sugar is that it causes the release of insulin to lower blood sugar, which can lead to wildly fluctuating sugar levels in the brain, which is very bad for nerve cells,” a- she explained.

The researchers conclude that early intervention to maintain healthy levels of HDL, triglycerides and glucose can reduce the risk of AD.

However, they also note several limitations to their work. Since their cohort was white, they say their results might not translate to other demographics.

They further say that due to limitations in their study design, their results may not accurately reflect age-specific trends. Since the researchers did not take fasting blood samples during the first two exams, their results may be slightly skewed.

Asked about the main practical lessons of the study, Dr Reiss said: “Eating less sugar and processed foods and exercising regularly are good for all organs, especially the brain and heart. Monitoring blood sugar and lipid profile and monitoring HDL are excellent preventative measures.

“We don’t have drugs that increase HDL without causing a lot of side effects and if the HDL isn’t of good quality, increasing it is useless. For now, the best way to support levels of HDL is to exercise and be physically active,” she concluded.


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