Scientists at the Heart Research Institute say they’ve made a major breakthrough by finding the definitive relationship between dementia and high cholesterol for the first time.
The researchers say the findings are significant because they mean future tests to calculate a person’s risk of dementia could be done through blood tests.
The scientists examined data from 17 global studies involving more than one million patients under the age of 65.
Dr. The Institute’s Ashish Misra said the findings were exciting and a “game-changer” as it was the first definitive link between levels of cholesterol and dementia.
“This is the first time we can say categorically that there is a direct link between what we eat and our cognitive decline,” he said.
“Until now, we didn’t know that high cholesterol was a risk factor for dementia, but we found a link: ‘Bad’ cholesterol aggregates a protein called tau between neurons, which cross the blood-brain barrier and can lead to dementia,” the doctor said. Misra.
Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and aid digestion, but too much cholesterol from a diet high in sugar and fat will lead to an imbalance of lipid levels in the blood, causing complications.
High cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque along artery walls, increasing the risk of stroke.
“Unfortunately, there is no magic cure to get rid of the plaque on your arteries. We have to learn to live with it and help dissolve it over time through improved nutrition and a healthy lifestyle.”
Dr. Misra said the discovery will lead to much better identification of early warning signs of dementia, giving people a chance to work on their risk factors, including diet and exercise.
Evidence has shown that the first effects of dementia often begin 10 to 20 years before clinical symptoms appear, and that 40 percent of the risk of developing it can be attributed to modifiable risk factors.
Dr. Misra said simple and cost-effective tests could be performed by doctors on people in their 50s so at-risk patients could work on improving their diet as a way to manage cognitive decline.
The number of people with dementia in Australia is approximately 487,500. For the population older than 65 years, this amounts to 84 patients per 1000 people.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare says this figure is expected to rise higher in the coming years due to the country’s aging population.
There are projections that the number of Australians with dementia will more than double by 2058.