Johns Hopkins Logo Prior investigations have suggested that high cholesterol in middle age increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias in later life. If this piece of information is to be believed then, this may not be true. A groundbreaking study triggered by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine claims that high cholesterol levels in mid life do not elevate women’s risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later in life.

Experts point out that woman reporting a reduction in cholesterol levels from middle age to old age have a 2.5 times greater risk of developing the memory-wasting diseases, than those with similar or increased cholesterol over the years. No apparent correlation between high middle-age cholesterol levels and dementia risk was observed. However, high cholesterol may give rise to cardiovascular and other diseases. Experts scrutinized data from the Prospective Population Study of Women which began in 1968.

It contained information about 1,462 Swedish women aged 38 to 60 years. Follow-ups were initiated at four intervals across the intervening decades. During the study participants were subjected to physical exams, heart tests, chest x-rays and blood tests. Also surveys questioning about smoking habits, alcohol and medication use, education and medical history were conducted. Michelle M. Mielke, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine lead author the study and colleagues kept a tab on BMI and blood pressure throughout the analysis. In the 32 years of follow-up between 1968 and 2001 women were tested for dementia.

In 2001 it appeared that 161 of the original group had developed Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but the youngest group was reaching the age of 70 years. Among the various biomarkers, old age seems to be the biggest known risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases. Later in life, women with slightly higher BMI, increased levels of cholesterol and elevated blood pressure are probably healthier overall than those with very low cholesterol and blood pressure.

The study is published online in the journal Neurology.