Look After Your Heart

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The importance of heart health is well known, but a landmark Australian study has found a worrying link between a health lifestyle and another disease.

The Heart Research Institute (HRI) is an internationally recognised medical research institute that performs ground-breaking cardiovascular research.

Scientists at HRI have made a world-first breakthrough discovery linking, for the first time, high cholesterol with an increased risk of dementia.

The research could see doctors soon be able to calculate a person’s risk of dementia by testing their cholesterol levels through an inexpensive and easy blood test.

The research led by HRI’s Dr Ashish Misra analysed the data of 17 global studies, involving more than a million patients under the age of 65.

Dr Misra said the findings could be a game-changer in reducing the risk of cognitive decline as well as improving overall health.

“This is a really exciting discovery because we’ve found the association between cholesterol and dementia,” he said.

“Until now we haven’t known high cholesterol was a risk factor for dementia, but we’ve found a link: ‘bad’ cholesterol aggregates a protein called tau between neurons, which cross the blood-brain barrier and can lead to dementia.”

Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the gradual impairment of brain function, which could impact a person’s memory, speech, cognition (thought), personality, behaviour and mobility.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates there were between 401,300 and 487,500 Australians living with dementia in 2022.

That equates to 15 Australians in every 1000, and increases to 84 people with dementia per 1000 for Australians aged 65 and over.

With an ageing and growing population, that figure is projected to more than double by 2058 to 849,300 people.

What can you do to manage cholesterol and reduce the risks?
– If you’re a smoker, stop smoking. Smoking lowers levels of “bad” cholesterol and is also harmful for your blood vessels, which makes them even more vulnerable to plaque build-up.

– Exercise regularly—at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.

– Maintain a healthy weight.

– Eat a healthy diet and limit your consumption of the following: full-fat dairy products (these are rich in saturated fats), red meat, processed food, fried food (these contain high levels of trans fats) and other foods that contain high amounts of saturated vegetable oils.

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