Worrying about cholesterol has become a big concern for many people. Many food companies are coming out with products that claim to lower your cholesterol. But not all cholesterols are the same. People with diabetes especially need to know the difference between “good” and “bad” cholesterols, and how these can contribute to (or lessen) the chance of having heart-related illnesses.
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in the liver and found in foods made from animals, such as dairy products, eggs, and meat. There are 3 basic types. The first are low density lipoproteins or LDLs. These are considered “bad” because they can lead to the build up of plaque on the arterial walls. The second are high density lipoproteins or HDLs. These are “good” because they help the body get rid of bad cholesterol. The third type are triglycerides, which are not a true type of cholesterol, but another type of fat that can lead to heart disease.
People with diabetes need to keep “bad” LDL levels low and “good” HDL levels high. It is recommended that LDL levels should stay below 100 mg/dL, and that HDL levels should be 40 mg/dL or higher; in fact, 60 mg/dL and higher is considered very good for HDL levels. Additionally, triglyceride levels should be below 150 mg/dL. The reason for these levels is because diabetes often lowers the “good” HDL levels and raises the “bad” LDL and triglyceride levels. Keeping LDLs low and HDLs high can help lower the risk of heart disease.
A study recently done on 750 patients (some with diabetes and some not) found that the patients with diabetes, who also had low HDL levels and high triglyceride levels, were more likely to have coronary artery disease (disease dealing with the heart’s blood vessels), all of which could lead to future heart attacks or strokes. This condition of low HDL levels and high triglyceride levels is known as diabetic dyslipidemia. This common illness makes your lipid levels go in the wrong direction, where good cholesterols are being lowered and bad cholesterols are too high. Diabetic dyslipidemia can lead to coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It is therefore very important for people with diabetes to take steps to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
How can you lower your “bad” levels and avoid heart diseases? Doctors recommend many things, such as eating foods low in cholesterol, quitting smoking, exercising, taking medication (if necessary), and having your levels checked regularly. Check with your doctor to set up a plan to help raise your “good” and lower the “bad.”
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