Diabetes and High Cholesterol 101
People with diabetes are more likely than people without diabetes to have unhealthy levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Fortunately, cholesterol is one of the easier risk factors to manage when it comes to preventing heart disease. You can live a healthy life by taking a few simple steps, such as eating less saturated or solid fat, adding more cholesterol-lowering foods to your diet, and, if needed, losing a little weight. Learn about what level of cholesterol is healthy for a person with diabetes, and when you might need medication. Check out the difference between LDL and HDL ("good" cholesterol), and get ideas for some cholesterol-friendly foods.
Cholesterol is a type of fat found in the blood. Everyone has it, but people with diabetes are more likely to have unhealthy levels of LDL, which can cause narrowing or blocking of the blood vessels. This blockage, when severe, keeps blood from reaching some areas of the heart, increasing your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
There are two types of cholesterol in the blood: HDL and LDL. LDL levels should be kept low to help protect your heart. By contrast, HDL is a healthy fat that helps clear fatty deposits from your blood vessels and protect your heart. Try thinking "L should be low, H is healthy" to help you remember the difference between the two types.
Triglycerides are another type of fat in your blood that can add to your risk of a heart attack or stroke at high levels, similar to the effect of high cholesterol.Know the Numbers
What are the low and high levels of cholesterol for those with diabetes? According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), most adults with diabetes should aim for an LDL level of less than 100 mg/dl. The ADA-recommended HDL levels are greater than 40 mg/dl for men with diabetes and greater than 50 mg/dl for women with diabetes. The ADA recommends that both men and women with diabetes aim for triglyceride levels less than 150 mg/dl. What's mg/dl? It stands for milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood -- the standard unit of measure for cholesterol and triglycerides.
Everyone, including people with diabetes, needs some cholesterol in their blood to help build healthy cells. However, there are no symptoms to alert you if your LDL is too high or your HDL is too low. A blood test at your doctor's office is the only way to know. As a result, it is especially important to have your cholesterol checked regularly (at least yearly) if you have diabetes.
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