Link Between High Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Discovered

The effects of cholesterol on the heart are well-known, but did you know that having high cholesterol can also impact brain function?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 100 million Americans have high cholesterol, putting them at risk for heart attacks and stroke.[1]  But, scientists have just recently discovered that high cholesterol levels are also associated with development of Alzheimer’s disease.  A study published in the journal Neurology revealed that high cholesterol levels were significantly related to brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. A total of 86% of people with high cholesterol had brain plaques.[2] 

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Lowering Cholesterol Naturally Using Vitamins for Memory

Certain vitamins have the ability to both lower cholesterol and preserve memory:

  1. B Vitamins.  Research has shown that deficiencies of B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 produce cognitive impairment and play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.[3,4]  A study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry found that people who get enough niacin (vitamin B3) in their diet cut their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 70%![5] B vitamins – especially Niacin – also play a major in role in proper cholesterol balance by lowering LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels.[6,7] Foods high in B vitamins include eggs, avocado, salmon and nuts.  For people who find it hard to maintain the recommended intake of these vitamins through their daily diet, a vitamin B complex is recommended.  Be sure you choose supplements that consist of a variety of vitamins belonging to this group: thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9) and cyanocobalamin or vitamin B12.  Follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions or seek the advice from an integrative medicine physician to discover if you need additional B vitamin support.
  2. Vitamins C and E.  Along with B vitamins, vitamins C and E are antioxidants that neutralize destructive molecules called free radicals.  Free radicals are associated in many diseases and age-related impairments including dementia.   According to Harvard Medical School, “research suggests that antioxidants convey some benefits in the treatment of age-related memory loss” and “people who reported taking vitamin C and E supplements had an 88% lower incidence of vascular dementia.”[8] Vitamins C and E can also improve cholesterol levels and provide benefit in the progression of heart disease.[9] Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, broccoli, and colorful peppers. Vitamin E sources include nuts and seeds.  If you prefer to buy vitamins C and E supplements, be sure they are natural and not synthetic.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the recommended adult doses for these vitamins are 65 to 95 milligrams of vitamin C and 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily.[10] Again, an integrative medicine physician can help you determine if you need higher dosages of these vitamins.

[1] CDC.

[2] T. Matsuzaki, K. Sasaki, J. Hata, Y. Hirakawa, K. Fujimi, T. Ninomiya, S. O. Suzuki, S. Kanba, Y. Kiyohara, T. Iwaki. “Association of Alzheimer disease pathology with abnormal lipid metabolism: The Hisayama Study.” Neurology, 2011; 77 (11): 1068

[3] Nourhashemi F, Gillette-Guyonnet S, Andrieu S, et al. Alzheimer disease: protective factors. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(2):643S-649S.

[4] Quinlivan EP, McPartlin J, McNulty H, et al. Importance of both folic acid and vitamin B12 in reduction of risk of vascular disease. Lancet. 2002;359(9302):227-228.

[5] Morris, M.C. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, August 2004; vol 75: pp 1093-1099.

[6] Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis. 2000;26(3):341-8.

[7] Illingworth DR, et al. Comparative effects of lovastatin and niacin in primary hypercholesterolemia. A prospective trial. Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:1586-1595.

[8] The Harvard Medical School Guide to Achieving Optimal Memory.

[9] Circulation. 107(7):947-53, 2003 Feb 25.

[10] USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Originally published in 2012, this blog has been updated.

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