Study Shows Cholesterol Protects Brain Function in the Elderly

If you are the right age cholesterol might be just what the doctor ordered. A new study shows that high cholesterol is associated with a lower risk of mental decline in the senior population.

Researchers found that in people between the ages of 85 and 94 their risk of mental decline was lowered by 32% over the next 10 years if they had above average cholesterol levels in their blood. This was compared to people between 75 and 84, who had a 50% higher risk of developing dementia.

Lead researcher Jeremy Silverman, professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, cautions about how to interpret the findings of the study.

“It’s not so much that cholesterol suddenly becomes good for you if you can make it to 85. It’s such that people who are making it who remain alive and who have high cholesterol are more likely to carry other factors that protect them against the bad effects of cholesterol,” he explained.

Silverman warned that the findings do not mean that people over 85 should increase their cholesterol intake, hoping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. He also says that the study did not find a cause-and-effect relationship.

“Overall, high cholesterol was associated with a bad cognitive [mental] decline, but when we look only at people who were in good cognitive health at 85, a rising cholesterol was associated with a better outcome,” Silverman said.

Silverman added that young and middle-aged people, keeping cholesterol at low levels is important.

“There are many studies that show it is a risk factor for cognitive decline in people through their mid-70s,” he said