A new study has found that HDL cholesterol, sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol, may be linked to a decreased dementia risk.

The study reported that adults who have higher levels of the protein apolipoprotein E, found in HDL cholesterol, have higher cognitive performance and could be less likely to develop dementia later on life. The full report and methodology was published in the JAMA Network.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in all of the cells of our bodies. It is necessary for some functions, such as producing hormones and digesting food, but can become dangerous if levels become too high. Bodies produce cholesterol on their own, but levels can increase even further from certain foods such as egg yolks and some meats. To measure cholesterol, three measurements are often taken: HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein).

HDL is considered helpful to the body because it routes cholesterol out of the body and back into the liver to get filtered out. Historically, high levels of HDL have been considered to be protective when it comes to developing heart disease. While the study found high levels to have a positive impact on dementia risk, protection declines if the protein apolipoprotein C3 is found in the HDL levels.

While further research is still needed to determine how this information can be used for advancing diagnostics and improving treatment for memory impairment, the findings support evidence that lifestyle changes may contribute to prevention or progression of dementia. This includes diet and exercise, which are both beneficial to current mental health and future cognitive functions.

Until we find a cure and fully understand the cause of memory impairment, we must be vigilant about supporting the important research being done, like this study.

Please join me and other caregivers in raising dementia awareness.

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