The conversations of life

Women, want to keep your brain healthy as you age? Watch your cholesterol


Two new University of Melbourne studies have proven cholesterol levels can change the makeup of grey and white matter in our brain – which affects our likelihood of dementia as we age.

Grey matter is the part of the brain where speech, hearing, feelings, seeing and memory happens while white matter allows communication to and from grey matter areas, and other parts of the body.

The first study found the volume of grey matter in a woman’s brain at 60 predicted how good her memory was at 70. Those with grey matter loss had worse memory as they aged.

A separate study also found that women with normal levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, called high-density lipoprotein (HDL), had less white matter damage in their brain when tested again a decade later. Women with these changes were worse at planning, organising and getting tasks done.

So how can you reduce your risk? The researchers say maintaining good cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure, along with regular exercise and annual health checks, is important for preventing or delaying dementia – and the same applies to men.

With women making up two-thirds of people living with dementia in Australia – and dementia now the leading cause of death for women – it’s worth taking seriously.

With a background in nursing, Annie has spent over 20 years working in the health industry, including the coordination of medical support for international TV productions and major stadium events, plus education campaigns with a number of national health organisations. In recent years, she has also taken time out of the workforce to be a full-time carer, giving her first-hand experience of the challenges and rewards of this role.

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