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Researchers Discover Marker That Predicts Cholesterol Level Changes As People Grow Older

Update Date: Nov 20, 2014 11:05 AM EST
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Differences in one gene can influence a person's cholesterol levels from midlife to late life, according to a new study. 

The study analyzed data from the blood samples of more than 590 people from the Framingham Heart Study Original Cohort.

The study found that the specific gene, APOE, encodes proteins involved in maintaining cholesterol levels. People have difference alleles, or variations of APOE such as APOE e2, APOE e3 and APOE e4. The APOE e4 allele is associated with an increased risk for several aging-related diseases, including Alzheimer's, stoke and coronary heart disease. APOE e2 is associated with a decreased risk for these diseases.

"The increased risk for cognitive and cardiovascular diseases among older adults who carry an APOE e4 allele may be due, in part, to the fact that these individuals are predisposed to having higher total cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol from midlife through late life, compared to people with the APOE 3 variant," said Brian Downer, lead author and UTMB Sealy Center on Aging postdoctoral fellow, in the press release

"The decreased risk for these diseases associated with the APOE e2 allele may be due to the lower total cholesterol and higher HDL cholesterol across the life span. Further research is needed to determine if reducing total cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol decreases the risk for cognitive and vascular diseases among adults who carry APOE e4 alleles."

Surprisingly, the study also found that higher cholesterol in older adults may be associated with longevity. According to the study, adults who lived past 90 years of age had higher total cholesterol during late life compared to adults who did not live past 80 or 90 years of age.

"The relationship between APOE, cholesterol and longevity is complex and it is important to continue conducting research in this area so that older adults know how to appropriately manage cholesterol levels during old age," said Downer.

The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

 

 

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