Cholesterol Health Issues

Boost HDL cholesterol and Get Sharper Memory

It is known that low levels of HDL cholesterol cause risks of heart diseases. But memory loss? If a recent study is to be believed, middle-aged people with low levels of the "good" cholesterol stand a greater chance of suffering from dementia and loss of memory.

HDL cholesterol levels lesser than 40 mg/dL are considered low, while levels greater than 60 mg/dL are considered high. Among those who participated in the study, those with low levels of HDL were 53 percent more likely to fare poorly in memory tests than those with high levels of HDL. The participants were about 60 years of age on an average, and showing first symptoms of dementia. The study was spread over six years.

The study included basic tests like remembering 20 words to test short-term memory. Several factors were taken into consideration - occupation, smoking, drinking, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.

The conclusions of the study only reaffirm the benefits of high HDL cholesterol levels which prevent diseases associated with narrowed arteries. HDL removes plaques deposited by LDL on the inner walls of the arteries leading to better blood flow to the brain. When the HDL levels are low, the brain suffers mild strokes that result in loss of memory, confusion, and absent-mindedness. Good HDL levels also prevent oxidation and inflammation, helping protect the vascular system that regulates blood flow to the brain.

An inactive lifestyle and bad choice of foods are the foremost reasons why HDL levels fall, apart from genetic issues. Increasing HDL levels by some means can help, but there no quick-fixes available yet.

The American Heart Association advocates daily aerobic exercise, cutting out all trans fats from diet and eating healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil and canola.

Statin drugs lower the LDL cholesterol but don't help much in increasing HDL cholesterol. Recent studies have shown that they don't protect against dementia. The drug torcetrapib boosts HDL immensely but it is no longer used because it has severe health ramifications including death due to heart disease, cancer and infections. Drugs with nicotinic acid are relatively safer but there could be side effects like stomach upsets and itching.

Although high levels of HDL are desired, the link between HDL and dementia is not so simple. Research has not yet conclusively proven that high HDL prevents or lessens memory loss. In fact some people may experience adverse reactions like inflammation. People who have high levels of HDL but are overweight cannot afford to sit back and think that they are "safe".