There’s a lot of focus on reducing our cholesterol levels, but we need to be careful just to reduce “bad” cholesterol and to maintain our levels of “good” cholesterol according to researchers at Columbia University, who believe HDL cholesterol helps to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s
While we are all now well aware that LDL cholesterol contributes to a build up of fat in the blood vessels leading to atherosclerosis and eventually heart disease, we don’t hear as much about HDL cholesterol, which actually reverses the effects of LDL cholesterol, and has a variety of other health benefits as well.
What does their study show?
The study involved around 1,130 participants from the northern Manhattan area. They were all aged 65 or older and none of them had a history of dementia or poor memory. They were assessed over a four year period and their levels of good cholesterol were measured.
The group was divided into four depending on HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good” cholesterol) levels. The top group had HDL levels of more than 55 milligrams per deciliter of blood, while the bottom group had less than 38 milligrams per deciliter of blood.
During the 4 years of the study 101 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s. 32 of these were in the group with the lowest HDL levels, while only 16 were in the highest group. Participants in the highest group were also 20% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than participants in the two middle groups.
Although it is not fully understood how HDL cholesterol reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, lead researcher and assistant Professor of Neurology Christiane Reitz believes that good cholesterol may positively influence the way that plaque is cleared away from the brain.
What are Normal Levels of Cholesterol?
There are two types of cholesterol in the body, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
- LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells, but if there is too much for the body to use it builds up in the arteries leading to health issues. For this reason it is known as bad cholesterol, even though it is needed to perform an important function in the body. Levels of LDL cholesterol should be kept low relative to HDL levels.
- HDL removes excess LDL cholesterol and carries it back to the liver where it can be disposed of. For this reason it is known as good cholesterol, and levels should be kept high relative to LDL cholesterol.
Overall cholesterol levels are measured in millimoles per liter of blood, or mmol/L, and normal levels of combined LDL and HDL should be less than 5mmol/L. There should always be more HDL or “good” cholesterol than LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
Why Do We Need Cholesterol?
Cholesterol gets bad press and many people are obsessed with getting rid of it, but as well as reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s, cholesterol is essential in the body for a number of other reasons:
- Cholesterol forms the outer layer of every cell in the human body
- Cholesterol insulates nerve fibers
- Cholesterol is needed to make hormones
- Cholesterol is needed to make bile acids for digestion and absorption of fats
Foods Boosting Good Cholesterol
There are plenty of foods you can eat to boost your levels of good cholesterol, and these tend to include unsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. To increase good cholesterol levels try to include olives and olive oil, avocado, cashew nuts, peanuts, almonds, pistachio nuts, herring, mackerel, sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, oats, beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables in your diet.
Minimizing foods that contain saturated fats, as well as getting plenty of exercise are both great ways to limit your bad cholesterol or LDL levels, keeping the balance in favor of good cholesterol or HDL. You can also lower your bad cholesterol naturally by taking Chol-X as a daily supplement. In addition to protecting you from Alzheimer’s, reducing your levels of bad cholesterol can help you to avoid potentially fatal conditions such as atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.