There is growing evidence that many of the well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high cholesterol and high blood pressure, may also be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.
Brain infracts, heart disease and mid-life hypertension increase the risk of Alzheimers disease and Vascular dementia.
A large study by researchers in Finland supports this thinking. Among the study population of 1,449 people, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure seemed to be even more strongly linked to the eventual development of Alzheimer’s than did carrying APOE-4 gene, the only known inherited risk-factor for the most common form of the disease.
Those people who carried the APOE-4 gene were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those with no genetic risk. However, if those APOE-4 carriers also had high blood pressure, then they were up to five times as likely to develop the disease.
When high cholesterol was also present, the risk jumped to eight times greater than those without APOE-4. This and a number of other studies around the world are strongly indicating that what’s good for the heart – keeping weight, cholesterol and blood pressure in check – may also be good for the brain.
Cholesterol is essential for healthy brain function it is a component of cell membranes (structures that enclose nerve cells), and it is required for the repair and establishment of new connections between nerve cells. However, studies have shown that high cholesterol in mid-life and late-life can significantly increase the risk of Alzheimers Disease. Subsequent studies have indicated that cholesterol lowering drugs may lower the risk of developing Alzheimers disease.
Smoking, another well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease, has also been identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.