HDL Cholesterol Is Independently Associated with Cognitive Function in Males but Not in Females within a Cohort of Nonagenarians: The MUGELLO Study

OBJECTIVES:

To investigate the possible relationship between lipid profile and cognitive functions in a cohort of nonagenarians enrolled within the Mugello Study, an epidemiological study aimed at investigating both clinically relevant geriatric items and various health issues.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional survey.

SETTING:

This study focused on oldest old community-dwelling participants.

PARTICIPANTS:

Three hundred twenty-five nonagenarians (218 F, median age: 92 years).

MEASUREMENTS:

Participants were evaluated through laboratory, instrumental examinations and questionnaires concerning lifestyle, dietary habits and cognitive status.

RESULTS:

Females are older, with a lower level of education, live more prevalently on their own and have higher values for total cholesterol and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) compared to males. With regard to functional and cognitive measures females report a significantly lower skill level in the physical activity performance, with a level of independence that is better for both basic and instrumental activities. In order to investigate whether there was an association between lipid variables and cognitive function as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination a multiple regression analysis was performed with adjustments for confounding variables based on gender. In males, HDL cholesterol showed a significant relationship with Mini-Mental State Examination after a complete adjustment with years of education, physical activity performance and daily living activities (β = 0.174; p=0.037). In females HDL cholesterol showed a significant association only in the model adjusted for age and body mass index, losing its associations as soon as the cohabitation state and the depression status entered the model.

CONCLUSION:

Our results support the hypothesis that HDL cholesterol is significantly linked to cognitive functions, especially in males of a cohort of very old people.