Did you know there is a link between Alzheimer’s disease and cholesterol levels? This has been known for sometime, actually. Middle-aged adults with high total cholesterol levels—even moderately high—are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. And, very high HDL (good) cholesterol levels in older adults puts them at reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
Two new studies takes this link even further. Researchers are trying to find genes that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The APOE gene has already been strongly linked to the disease—if you have two versions of APOE4 (one from mom, one from dad) then you are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s because this APOE version is inefficient at breaking down amyloid beta plaques in the brain. Amyloid beta plaques are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
The new studies have found five more genes related to the development of Alzheimer’s, The interesting part is the function of these genes. The genes are involved with cholesterol and inflammation—both of which have been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute have found that a chemical formed when cholesterol reacts with ozone (formed by inflammation) is involved in misfolding of amyloid beta, which makes it difficult to remove from the brain. The cholesterol link is interesting because cholesterol is produced in the liver, and the liver may be the actual source of amyloid beta in the first place, according to yet another recent study I blogged on recently.
Another finding comes from the University of California at Irvine. Cortisol, a hormone produced during stress, may also play a role in misfolding of amyloid beta. All the more reason to find some stress relief!
All these links of Alzheimer’s disease to processes that occur in other areas of the body make it even more important to eat a healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, and find ways to relieve stress. And if you have high cholesterol—do something about it! Your body is telling you that something is off. Are you listening to it?