Memory in Old Age Linked to HDL Levels Now

Getting more "good cholesterol" can prevent memory loss in old age.

July 2, 2008 — -- A new study has linked increased HDL, the "good" kind of cholesterol, with a decreased risk of memory loss with age.

The study tested 3,000 British subjects to find their levels of HDL cholesterol and then asked them to try to memorize 20 words.

It found that at age 55, the subjects with lower HDL levels had a 27 percent increased risk of memory loss compared with those with high HDL. The same subjects, tested again at age 60, showed an even greater difference in memory linked to HDL levels.

On "Good Morning America," medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson said thatalthough there is no definitive theory as to the nature of the link between HDL and memory, there are several theories.

First, good cholestoral, HDL, can help keep bad cholesterol out of the arteries, which decreases the risk of heart attack and strokes, reducing the damage to the brain that many suffer as a consequence of these ailments.

Second, the HDL may improve the connections between nerves in the brain.

Third, HDL may help control the formation of something called beta analoids, "which is a major component of the plagues that are found in Alzheimer's patients," Johnson explained.

Luckily, regardless of HDL's complexities, scientists do know various ways to help raise HDL levels as Johnson described on "Good Morning America."

Rise Up, HDL

Here are eight ways Johnson says people can increas HDL:

Statins, medications designed to lower cholesterol, can improve both LDL and HDL levels.

Exercise regularly.

Lose weight.

Stop smoking.

Drink alcohol in modest amounts.

Cut down on trans and saturated fats.

Consume olive, canola and peanut oils.

Drink cranberry juice.

According to Johnson, even with all these measures, it is "quite difficult" to raise HDL. He stressed that the most important of any of these HDL raising tactics is exercise.

"There are some recent studies that suggest it's not even so much the intensity of the exercise as the duration that can be helpful in raising HDL," he said.

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