Living your best life at 35, while neglecting cholesterol and glucose levels, may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) later in life. Lower HDL (high-density cholesterol) and high triglyceride levels detected in blood as early as age 35 are connected with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease many decades later, according to researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). They also discovered that high blood glucose levels assessed between the ages of 51 and 60 are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in the future.
“While our findings confirm previous studies that linked blood cholesterol and glucose levels with future risk of Alzheimer’s disease, we have demonstrated for the first time that these associations extend much earlier in life than previously thought,” says senior author Lindsay A. Farrer, PhD, chief of biomedical genetics at BUSM.
The researchers think that whereas high LDL has been consistently related with AD risk in many prior studies, the association between HDL and AD was ambiguous, presumably because most studies exploring these correlations were undertaken in adults who were 55 years and older at baseline.
This research used data from Framingham Heart Study individuals who were assessed at around four-year intervals over the majority of their adult lives. Correlations of Alzheimer’s disease with various recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes (including HDL, LDL, triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure, smoking, and BMI) were assessed at each exam and during three age periods during adulthood (35-50, 51-60, 61-70).
Lower HDL (the good cholesterol) levels were shown to be predictive of AD in early (35-50 years) and middle (51-60 years) adulthood, as well as high glucose levels in the blood (a precursor to diabetes) in mid-adulthood. “These results reveal for the first time that cardiovascular risk variables, including HDL, which has not been consistently recognized as a substantial risk factor for AD,” explains first and corresponding author Xiaoling Zhang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.
According to the experts, beginning to control these risk factors in early adulthood may reduce one’s chance of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
“Interventions aimed at cholesterol and glucose control that begin in early adulthood may assist enhance cognitive health later in life,” Farrer says.
Farrer adds, “the unique design and mission of the Framingham Heart Study, a multi-generation, community-based, prospective study of health that began in 1948, allowed us to link Alzheimer’s to risk factors for heart disease and diabetes measured much earlier in life than possible in most other studies of cognitive decline and dementia.”