The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Chloresterol and Dementia

Low levels of HDL cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein, have been associated with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia in general. That’s the “good kind” of cholesterol. It helps to prevent clogged arteries, assists nerve-cell synapses to mature and helps to control the formation of dementia-causing proteins. They other type of cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad stuff that plugs arteries and causes high blood pressure and heart attacks. That’s the kind that people take medicine to lower. (reference)

Lifestyle changes. 

There is no evidence that increasing HDL in people with dementia will stop the disease process. However, especially in people with early dementia, it may slow it down. In someone without dementia symptoms, maintaining adequate HDL levels may help to prevent dementia. The good part is that increasing HDL levels and maintaining them doesn’t require drugs! Lifestyle changes will do the job:
  • Get regular exercise. Aim for a variety of activities, and add new ones along the way. The body does better with that then when you do the same thing all the time. Make sure that both aerobic and resistance-training exercises are included.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking decreases HDL levels.
  • Eat a Mediterranean style diet, high in fiber-rich complex carbohydrates and low in refined carbohydrates. (See 9/5/13 blog) This diet appears to lower LDL levels while increasing HDL levels.
  • Get enough omega-3 fatty acids and use mono-saturated fats instead of saturated fats. (See 10/4/13 blog.) These have been shown to decrease total cholesterol levels while raising HDL levels. (reference)
    • Focus on purple foods: grapes, red onions, berries, eggplant, purple cabbage. These foods, which also include red wind and black tea, contain “flavonoids”, which decrease total cholesterol while significantly raising HDL levels.
    • Treat yourself to occasional small amounts of dark chocolate and small (5 oz.) glasses of red wine. Both contain resveratrol, which has been found to lower blood sugar. Red wine is also a source of catechins, which appears to improve “HDL levels.
    Cholesterol Drugs

    High blood pressure and dementia are both common in the elderly—and sometimes in the not-so-elderly and they often occur together. Therefore, many people with or at risk for dementia take statins, such as Lipator or Zocor, to lower cholesterol levels and decrease high-blood pressure.

    You may have heard conflicting information about these drugs and dementia. High doses of statins have been shown to lower the risk of dementia—in most people. However, in a 2008 study, 75% of those taking a statin drug experienced cognitive dysfunction. The symptoms  were generally temporary and disappeared when the drug was decreased. Other studies have also shown dementia symptoms connected with statin use with similar reversal rates upon drug decrease. However, in these studies the percentages of people affected have been much smaller..

    Researchers think that people who respond to statins with dementia symptoms have a genetic profile that puts them at risk. It is the combination of their genetic tendencies and the statins that cause the symptoms. Ask your doctor about this if your loved one takes drugs to lower chloresterol. Decreasing the medication may decrease dementia symptoms.

    Next week, the blog will be about coconut oil.

    For about Lewy body disorders read our books:

    A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia

    Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson’s & Other Lewy Body Disorders

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