Recent Studies Question Health Impacts of Varying ‘Good’ Cholesterol Levels

A fresh perspective on HDL cholesterol, commonly known as the “good” cholesterol, has emerged from recent research.

Featured in the journal Neurology, this research implies that extreme levels, whether high or low, of HDL cholesterol could pose dementia risks for seniors. This underlines the growing consensus that there’s an optimal range of HDL cholesterol beneficial for both heart and cognitive health.

Study lead Erin Ferguson, from the University of California San Francisco, remarked, “There are nuances in the HDL cholesterol-dementia link that we’re just starting to grasp. Even if the influence isn’t monumental, it’s noteworthy.”

The research, while highlighting an association, doesn’t pinpoint HDL cholesterol extremes as a direct cause for dementia.

Funded by esteemed health institutions, this study monitored over 184,000 senior participants. Using a mix of digital health records and surveys from Kaiser Permanente Northern California, the team tracked cholesterol metrics and health patterns for about 13 years, during which over 25,000 were diagnosed with dementia.

The CDC’s standing recommendation is a total cholesterol close to 150 mg/dL, with LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, ideally below 100 mg/dL.

In this investigation, participants were grouped by their HDL cholesterol levels, and adjustments were made for potential dementia triggers. The standard HDL level in this cohort was 53.7 mg/dL, aligned with general health guidelines. Remarkably, those who veered away from these benchmarks, either above or below, showed an increased predisposition to dementia.

Dr. Howard Weintraub of NYU Langone Heart expressed his astonishment at these revelations, highlighting the commonly held belief about HDL levels and heart risks. The dementia association is new territory, he observed.

A long-standing belief in the medical community is that the body’s interaction with HDL cholesterol and its storage patterns, be it in the brain or elsewhere, play a pivotal role in determining its health impact.