Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Cholesterol levels in middle age affect dementia risk

A large study has found that even moderately elevated cholesterol levels in middle age increase the risk of developing dementia in old age.

Researchers analyzed the health outcomes of 9,844 members of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Medical Group, who had undergone detailed health evaluations, including cholesterol testing, at ages 40 to 45. The researchers then examined participants' medical records 30 to 35 years later.

When compared with participants with desirable cholesterol levels (defined as less than 200 mg/dL), those with moderately elevated levels (200 to 239 mg/dL) were 50% more likely to develop vascular dementia later on. They were also more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease, although the results did not reach statistical significance.

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