A history of diabetes or high cholesterol (especially LDL) can speed cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, a recent study suggests.

Researchers used data from a prospective epidemiologic study of cognitive aging and dementia in New York City. They focused on the 156 people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s during the 10-year course of that project (Arch Neurol. 2009;66:343-348).

“We were able to follow patients before they began to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s and for several years after their diagnosis. This made our estimates of progression much more powerful, since we were able to know exactly when cognitive decline began,” explains senior author Yaakov Stern, PhD, director of the cognitive neuroscience division at Columbia University Medical School in New York City.

Continue Reading

“Preventing heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—or making sure these conditions are well managed—can potentially slow progression [of Alzheimer’s],” he adds.

Researchers analyzed prediagnosis levels of HDL, LDL, and total cholesterol, as well as triglycerides, and a history of diabetes. Analyzed separately, HDL and triglyceride levels had no effect on cognitive symptoms, but diabetes, LDL, and total cholesterol were each associated with more rapid declines. In a model that included HDL, LDL, and a history of diabetes, only LDL retained a significant effect.

These findings “provide further evidence for the role of vascular risk factors in the course of Alzheimer’s disease,” the authors conclude.