The Danger of High Cholesterol in Diabetics

high cholesterol and diabetesPeople with diabetes are less efficient at metabolizing blood fats like triglycerides and cholesterol. And it is this altered blood fats pattern that increases the risk of circulatory and heart disease in diabetics.

While scientists are still figuring out how exactly diabetes alters cholesterol levels, they already do know that high insulin levels in the blood adversely affect the number of blood cholesterol particles.

High insulin raises the amount of LDL-cholesterol, which forms plaques in the arteries and lowers HDL-cholesterol, which helps clear out those plaques before they break off to trigger a heart attack or stroke.

Diabetes also causes higher levels of triglycerides, another type of lipid that circulates in the blood. Triglycerides are unused calories stored in the fat cells and released between meals for energy. When their levels are too high, it can contribute to artery walls thickening, increasing the risk of heart disease. When their levels are extremely high, it can bring on inflammation of the pancreas.

High triglycerides can often indicate the presence of other conditions, such as metabolic syndrome, where obesity, hypertension and high blood sugar occur at a time, increasing the cardiovascular disease all together.

Both high triglycerides and high cholesterol levels can be predictors of diabetes. Therefore, when their levels start to climb, doctors advise to pay close attention to blood glucose control and start a diet and an exercise regimen to maintain a healthy weight and stave off diabetes.

Proper blood sugar control in people with type 1 diabetes can make a big difference. When their sugar is kept within normal range, their cholesterol levels also stay normal or near-normal. Whereas, when blood sugar is poorly controlled, type 1 diabetics have elevated triglycerides and low HDL levels, which make them prone to clogged arteries.

The situation is worse off in people with type 2 diabetes. They tend to have elevated LDL, low HDL and increased triglycerides, regardless of blood sugar control. Even if type 2 diabetics keep their blood glucose under control, their poor cholesterol profile may persist, signifying even higher likelihood of building up plaques. Moreover, in this type of diabetes plaques are fattier and less fibrous than in type 1, making the risk of dislodging even higher.

Therefore, all adult diabetics should have their blood lipids measured and cardiovascular risk assessed every year. This is especially important if coronary artery disease runs in the family.

The recommended levels for people with diabetes, but with absence of cardiovascular disease, are:
LDL – below 100 mg/dL
HDL – above 50 mg/dL
Triglycerides – below 150 mg/dL
Glucose – below 130 mg/dL (7mmol/L).

The recommended levels for people with diabetes and with the presence of cardiovascular disease, including clogged arteries and prior myocardial infarction, are:
LDL – below 70 mg/dL
HDL – above 40 mg/dL
Triglycerides – below 150 mg/dL
Glucose – below 130 mg/dL (7mmol/L).

People with diabetes are already at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Problems with cholesterol add to the problems presented by high blood sugar. That said, it’s a double whammy. So, diabetics should be particularly careful about keeping both blood glucose and cholesterol levels in check.

It is also crucial to keep to a diet for diabetics, as well as decrease consumption of foods that contain LDL. Diabetic patients with bad cholesterol profile and a history of clogged arteries may also benefit from statin medications. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and quitting bad habits also matters.

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