How High Cholesterol Might Make You Smarter


    According to a study, people ages 85-94 that have higher cholesterol levels than those in midlife may also have a lower risk of cognitive decline.

    Shockingly, these results are vastly different than when studying participants just 10 years younger. In fact, those in the 75-84 age range who had higher cholesterol levels than in midlife showed a 50% higher risk of cognitive decline.

    The study’s authors are Jeremy Silverman and James Schmeidler, who are both from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY. Their findings can be found in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

    Silverman and Schmeidler began by studying data of 1,897 participants from the Framingham Heart Study, all with healthy cognitive function.

    They then began studying the associations between the participants’ total cholesterol levels and their cognitive decline as they went through their middle and later ages of life.

    According to Medical News Today:

    “The researchers used five “time-dependent” measures of total cholesterol. These were:

    • average at age 40 (midlife)
    • average at age 77 (late life)
    • average since age 40
    • whether the level went up or down (“linear change since midlife”)
    • whether any change in level slowed down or sped up (did the linear change accelerate or decelerate?)”

    According to the results, some of these measures had an association with higher risk of cognitive decline. However, others began to diminish as the ages of the participants increased.

    Specifically, Silverman and Schmeidler found that participants in the 85-94 year-old range, whose cholesterol was higher than that in midlife, were showing a reduction in the risk of cognitive decline.

    However, according to Medical News Today:

    Prof. Silverman points out that their findings should not be taken to mean that those aged 85 and older should now seek to raise their cholesterol levels.

    “We don’t think high cholesterol is good for cognition at 85,” he adds, “but its presence might help us identify those who are less affected by it.”

    We hope to identify genes or other protective factors for cognitive decline by focusing on cognitively healthy very old people who are more likely to carry protective factors.”

    – Prof. Jeremy Silverman