Alzheimer's is a degenerative brain disease that usually begins gradually, causing a person to forget recent events or familiar tasks. How rapidly it advances varies from person to person, but the disease eventually leads to confusion, personality and behavior changes and impaired judgment. Communication becomes more difficult as the disease progresses.
Having high cholesterol appears to be bad for more than the heart - it may also increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. The study raises the possibility that the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins can also ward off mental decline.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, looked at more than 2,000 women and found that high cholesterol levels appear to harm the brain and lead to the type of mental decline seen in Alzheimer's disease. But it also found that older women who took drugs called statins had less mental impairment than non-users.
However, the study was not designed to test the drugs' effects on mental sharpness, and more work is needed to determine whether statins really can lower the risk of getting the much dreaded degenerative brain disease.