Cholesterol on the Brain

By Scott LaFee

January 8, 2014 4 min read

Unhealthy levels of cholesterol have long been linked to poorer heart health, but a new study suggests the ratio of "good" cholesterol to "bad" also has implications for the brain and, more specifically, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease.

In a study out of the University of California, Davis, researchers found that a healthy ratio correlated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain — a hallmark of Alzheimer's. The pattern, note the scientists, mirrors the relationship found in cardiovascular disease.

"Our study shows that higher levels of HDL — good — and lower levels of LDL — bad — cholesterol in the bloodstream are associated with lower levels of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain," says Bruce Reed, the lead author of the study.

The findings confirm long-held suspicions and are the first to specifically link cholesterol to amyloid deposits in a study involving living participants. In the United States, cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood. For HDL, a level of 60 milligrams/deciliter or higher is best. For LDL, a level of 70 milligrams/deciliter or lower is recommended for people at high risk of heart disease.

"If you have an LDL above 100 or an HDL that is less than 40, even if you're taking a statin drug, you want to make sure that you are getting those numbers into alignment," said Charles DeCarli, director of the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center. "You want to get the HDL up and the LDL down."

BODY OF KNOWLEDGE

The average American eats 14,820 pounds of meat in a lifetime, or about the equivalent of a large minke whale.

GET ME THAT. STAT!

The World Health Organization estimates that between 3 and 5 million people worldwide get a serious case of the seasonal flu each year; tens of millions get milder cases. Between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally die of the flu every year.

LIFE IN BIG MACS

One hour of sitting in a whirlpool burns 68 calories (based on a 150-pound person) or the equivalent of 0.1 Big Macs.

DOC TALK

Cellulitis — a bacterial skin infection

PHOBIA OF THE WEEK

Homilophobia — fear of sermons

NEVER SAY DIET

The Major League Eating speed-eating record for oysters is 564 in eight minutes, held by Sonya Thomas. Warning: Most of these records are held by professional eaters; the rest by people who really should find something better to do.

OBSERVATION

"The word 'aerobics' comes from two Greek words: 'aero,' meaning 'ability to,' and 'bics,' meaning 'withstand tremendous boredom.'" — Humorist Dave Barry

LAST WORDS

"Am I dying or is this my birthday?" — Lady Nancy Astor (1879-1964), the first woman to sit as a member of the British House of Commons, upon briefly waking during her last illness and discovering her bed surrounded by family

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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