Diabetics with high cholesterol need to be extra vigilant as the risk of heart disease and strokes is more doubled in diabetics than in non-diabetics. Diabetes is known as the silent killer, often because the symptoms of high blood sugar levels often go unnoticed for a long time. In fact it is estimated that over 20 percent of the population have pre-diabetes and don’t even know about it.
Diabetics with high cholesterol face almost certain prospects of complications which mean management of diabetes and cholesterol are an absolute must. The good news is that high cholesterol is very manageable; again we come back to our two old allies – diet and exercise.
There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol
Bad cholesterol is what you need to keep a close watch on. Ensure that you get these levels checked when you go for your biannual blood test. The bad cholesterol is known as LDL or low-density lipoprotein. This is the nasty stuff that can build up in your blood and stick to the inside of artery walls leading to fatty deposits known as plaque. Plaque is dangerous as it prevents free and healthy blood flow through your arteries which puts you at significant risk of a heart attack or a stroke.
Good cholesterol is known as HDL or high-density lipoprotein. HDL clears out the bad cholesterol from your arteries, so you want more of this cholesterol in your body. HDL levels are raised in the body by quitting smoking, losing weight especially around the midsection, and by getting plenty of exercise. These are three crucial areas that anyone should focus on, especially if cholesterol is an issue.
Triglycerides are a kind of fat that is found in your blood and is also used by your body as fuel. Triglycerides play an important and vital role in your body, however like LDL cholesterol there can be too much of them in your system which is very bad and can lead to heart disease and strokes.
Having diabetes can actually lower good cholesterol and raise bad cholesterol and triglyceride. This condition is known in medical circles as diabetic dyslipidemia. This condition can see bad cholesterol stay in the system for longer periods which dramatically raises the chances of heart attacks or strokes.
High cholesterol might mean you need drugs
Diabetics with high cholesterol often need to manage their situation with ongoing prescription drug therapy. These drugs manage either your HDL or LDL levels. This is not ideal by any means and side effects from the drugs may exist including liver damage which is a double whammy for diabetics as liver damage is another thing in a long list of complications from having diabetes. To read more about diabetes and liver damage please read this blog post.
What we can do to manage our cholesterol
The cornerstone for any diabetic with high cholesterol should be proper diet and exercise. It is estimated in some circles that diet can be seen as being 70-80% of the puzzle with the remaining 20-30% taken up by exercise. Unfortunately for some people focusing on proper diet and exercise may not bring their lipid levels back to a reasonable level. It is important to consult with your diabetes professional before undertaking any radical change to your diet or exercise regime.
Exercising at least 4 times per week via cardiovascular and resistance training is ideal. You can benefit from this by seeing lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Exercise lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol. You should view your exercise regime as a lifestyle choice not something that you do sporadically. The health benefits are overwhelmingly positive if you exercise consistently, including weight loss and reducing high blood pressure. Please see my blog post on diabetes and exercise programs.
Your diet should be your primary focus in terms of making positive changes. Cutting down on foods that contain trans or saturated fats is imperative to lowering bad cholesterol. Keeping your daily intake of saturated fat below 20 grams for women and 30 grams for men is essential to lower bad cholesterol. Think of lowering your intake of red meats, full fat dairy products and any kind of fast food, especially if it is fried.
Eating more soluble fibre can help lower LDL cholesterol as well. Unsurprisingly soluble fibre is found mainly in fresh fruit and vegetables. It is also found in oat products, beans, peas, soya foods and drinks, prunes, nuts , barley and psyllium. Other foods to eat to lower bad cholesterol include flaxseed, garlic, ginger, foods with omega 3 fat such as fresh tuna or salmon. Getting 5 servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day is a great way for diabetics with high cholesterol to manage their condition.
A quick word on smoking
Smoking is obviously a BIG no, no. The health benefits you will see after quitting smoking are almost immediate. The chances of complications are also dramatically lowered as soon as you quit smoking. I believe the best way to quit smoking is to go cold turkey. Please see my blog post on diabetes and smoking here. In this article I tell you how I managed to quit after 20 years of being a smoker.
Unfortunately as diabetics we face so many challenges but avoiding long term complications can only be avoided by being smart. This means that you need to manage you blood sugar levels as effectively as possible. It also means taking care of your body via proper diet and exercise. Unfortunately the statistics suggest that the chances of heart disease or stroke is raised significantly by having diabetes. Keeping a close eye on your cholesterol only makes good sense to protect your heart. Please see my blog post on diabetes and strokes and how to avoid one.
Please leave me a message below if you are a diabetic with high cholesterol and what you have done to manage your situation.