We all know that having more HDL cholesterol than LDL cholesterol is ideal for good heart health, but if you’re a woman, having more good cholesterol can also help protect your brain.
Developing dementia can negatively impact a person’s life. As memory declines, so can many abilities and functions. Being forgetful can put a person’s health at greater risk.
Studies have shown that two-thirds of those living with dementia are women, yet there are few studies on women and dementia.
Two studies from the 20-year Women’s Healthy Ageing Project from the University of Melbourne has shed light on which women are at a higher risk of dementia and how to implement early prevention methods.
One study uncovered that a woman’s grey matter in the brain by the age of 60 might determine how the brain will function by 70. Grey matter is where processing occurs within the brain. White matter allows for communication to and from grey matter to other parts of the body.
An alternative study uncovered that women with higher HDL cholesterol levels have less white matter damage after a decade. This was uncovered through cognitive tests and MRI scans. This suggests that by maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, you may also protect the brain too.
Lead researcher Professor Cassandra Szoeke explained, “Taken together, these findings show there are useful neuroimaging biomarkers for the prediction of cognitive decline in healthy older women. They build on a growing body of research helping us pick up the warning signs of dementia earlier. In fact, just this year the National Institute of Ageing published proposed criteria to diagnose dementia and pre-dementia on biomarkers, like brain scan results and body fluid measures of protein levels.”
Professor Szoeke suggests that lifestyle habits can play a large role in protecting the brain, and we already know that lifestyle habits can contribute to our cholesterol levels too. Therefore, the same healthy habits that support HDL cholesterol can also go a long way in protecting the brain.
She continued, “Our study shows that healthy blood vessels reduce our risk of cognitive decline and disease. This aligns with our knowledge that regular physical activity, normal blood pressure and maintaining normal levels of HDL cholesterol are all associated with better cognition.”
Low HDL cholesterol was associated with greater vascular brain damage.
Studies like these go to show how connected the body truly is, and that an area commonly attributed to heart health can work to improve brain function too. Therefore, the take-away is that by adhering to a healthy lifestyle, you can improve many areas of the body and your health.