Significant fluctuations in “bad” cholesterol may correlate with declining brain health in older adults regardless of medication or average LDL cholesterol levels, the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation recently reported from Dallas, Texas.
The AHA cited a European study of adults aged 70 to 82 which found that participants with greater measurable variations took longer on average to complete cognitive tasks — no matter whether the patients were receiving statin drug treatment and regardless of their average levels.
“While this might seem like a small effect, it is significant at a population level,” Dr. Roelof Smit, lead study author and Ph.D. student at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, said.
While the study surveyed populations from Scotland, Ireland and the Netherlands, Smit suggested that it might be applicable to U.S. individuals, with the caveat that it cannot be extrapolated directly because the surveyed population was selected for specific risk factors.
Higher fluctuations were linked to decreased blood flow to the brain, indicating that LDL cholesterol variability correlates with neurocognitive function, according to Smit. Ordinarily, measurements vary due to factors such as diet, exercise and statin intake; but age or causal conditions cannot be ruled out.
“These results add an important puzzle piece to the emerging evidence that vascular risk factors are closely related to brain health,” Smit said. “Our study is just the first exciting step.”