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Cholesterol And Dementia: What's The Link?

    Cholesterol And Dementia: What's The Link?

    As we age, more complications and risks occur with our help. One of them is dementia. They say that cholesterol is a factor that leads to dementia. But how exactly are cholesterol and dementia linked? Read on to find out.

    What is Dementia?

    Before we get into how cholesterol and dementia are related, let’s first understand dementia. What is dementia?

    Dementia is the umbrella term we use to describe one’s loss of memory, language, problem-solving, judgment, and other mental abilities that are serious enough that they affect one’s ability to live their day-to-day life. Dementia becomes more common as one ages. While there are many factors at play that can cause one to develop dementia, among them Alzheimer disease is the most common cause.

    Vascular Dementia

    Next to Alzheimer, vascular dementia is the next most common type of dementia. Vascular dementia happens when microscopic bleeding or blood vessel blockages occur in the brain. This is why it is likely for one to develop vascular dementia after a stroke. However, this doesn’t mean however that a stroke will automatically lead to vascular dementia.

    Besides having a stroke, other factors might contribute to developing vascular dementia. Any condition that might damage blood vessels or reduce circulation from the brain might cause one to develop vascular dementia.

    Risk factors that can raise the chance of you getting a stroke or a heart attack or disease also increase your chance of developing vascular dementia. Some of these factors include high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol.

    Cholesterol and Dementia: The Connection

    At its most basic level, this is how cholesterol and dementia are related. The higher cholesterol you have, the higher chance you have of developing vascular dementia as you age. But let’s go a bit further than that to have a better picture.

    Since we’ve already taken a look at dementia, this time let’s briefly go over cholesterol.

    What is Cholesterol?

    Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in our body’s cells as well as in our blood. This substance can be transported all around our body through our bloodstream. Our body naturally produces cholesterol and it can also be found in certain foods that we eat. While not inherently bad, too much of it can form plaques or build up in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, and vascular dementia.

    Studies have shown that there is a relationship between having high levels of cholesterol and developing dementia as one ages. But this relationship might not be as simple as everybody thinks.

    Individuals with high cholesterol also have other factors that might complicate the relationship. For example, high cholesterol individuals are also known to have diabetes and high blood pressure, which make it difficult to completely understand how cholesterol and dementia are related.

    In addition, doctors are still not completely certain how medication that lowers cholesterol affects the chances of developing dementia.

    Recent Studies

    In a recent study, researchers tried to find out how exactly cholesterol and dementia relate to each other. They theorized that a process called cholesterol catabolism (breakdown) was responsible for the increased risk of vascular dementia among individuals with high cholesterol.

    To confirm their theory, they took a group of around 1,800 individuals. With their criteria and parameters, they tested and sampled each and every one of these individuals.

    Interestingly enough, through their testing, they found out that the risk of vascular dementia increased for males but not for females. In addition, the risk increased when they took men’s medication into account. Specifically, the risk increased when the men had prescriptions for bile acid-blocking drugs.

    This discovery suggests cholesterol metabolism might be a huge factor that causes dementia. As for why males are more susceptible, the researchers theorize that it’s because cholesterol metabolism only causes sex-specific effects on the brain. This means that these changes are more likely to affect men more than women.

    This is an important step in understanding the relationship between cholesterol and dementia. We now understand that certain medications may have an effect on reducing or increasing one’s risk for dementia. Also, this means that vascular dementia might be gender-specific, further increasing our understanding of what exactly causes it or how it works.

    While more studies are needed to have a greater grasp of what this research really means, we are one step closer to figuring out and hopefully reducing the effect that vascular dementia has on us.

    Key Takeaways

    Vascular dementia and cholesterol hold an important link that can help determine how we can possibly prevent or reduce the chances of dementia in the future.

    While further studies are needed with regards to medication, it is clear that regulating the amount of cholesterol in our bodies is not only a good way to prevent dementia, but also a good way to prevent stroke and heart disease.

    Learn more about Cholesterol here.

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    Sources

    Cholesterol and Dementia, https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention/cholesterol-and-dementia Accessed July 29, 2021

    Changes in How Cholesterol Breaks Down in the Body May Accelerate Progression of Dementia, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210527150116.htm Accessed July 29, 2021

    Research Reveals Protective Effects of Cholesterol Lowing Medications in Those at Risk of Dementia, https://www.dementia.org.au/about-us/news-and-stories/research/research-reveals-protective-effects-cholesterol-lowing Accessed July 29, 2021

    Vascular Dementia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/vascular-dementia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378793 Accessed July 29, 2021

    Statins Used to Lower Cholesterol Linked to Doubled Risk of Developing Dementia, https://scitechdaily.com/statins-used-to-lower-cholesterol-linked-to-doubled-risk-of-developing-dementia/ Accessed July 29, 2021

     

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    Written by Sky Abundo Updated Aug 23
    Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD
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