People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing related health complications such as heart attacks and strokes. As your blood cholesterol rises, so does your over all cardiovascular risk. Discover why cholesterol matters when you have diabetes.
- Studies have shown losing just 7 to 10 percent of your weight can reduce your blood sugar levels. Eating saturated fatty foods can cause you to gain weight and increase your risk of high cholesterol and coronary disease. Clearly, cholesterol matters with diabetes. Other factors can further the risk of getting heart disease, including high blood pressure, family history, smoking, sedentary life style, eating habits, gender and age. It can make a big difference when you control lifestyle habits.
- Lipids are the fatty substances found in your blood. Cholesterol is found in animal foods such as poultry, meat, milk, eggs and cheese. Try to keep your total blood cholesterol under 200 mg/dL. LDL is known as the “bad” cholesterol, as heightened levels can damage your arteries and lead to a heart attack or stroke. LDL levels should be less than 130 mg/dL in the healthy population. With diabetes and increased probability of heart problems, a doctor may recommend levels as low as 70 mg/dL. HDL is referred to as “good cholesterol” because it helps keep the arteries open by pulling out the LDL. You can use an HDL testing kit at home to determine if your levels are greater than 50 for men and more than 40 for women which is desirable. Elevated triglycerides may be considered dangerous as they are connected to elevated blood sugars. Triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dL. Talk to your doctor about ways to lower your cholesterol such as better eating choices, exercise and medications.
- Hypertension can often accompany diabetes and high cholesterol. The new blood pressure score established for people with diabetes is 140/80 or less. Talk to your doctor about the numbers to find out your target range. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar and blood pressure regularly and report irregularities to their doctor. It is also important to have your cholesterol tested at least once each year or as recommended by your doctor.
- Learn more about “good” and “bad” fats. Read food labels and reduce your intake of saturated fats. Eat a well-balanced diet that includes whole foods, such as lean meats, fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and whole grains. Baking, boiling, steaming and broiling are the best ways to prepare your food. Cut away visible fat from meats and do not eat poultry skin. Stay away from fried, processed and packaged food. Ask questions at restaurants and special order meals with reduced salt and fat. Stay away from creamy sauces and added sugars. Add flavor to your food with fresh or dried herbs, including heart-healthy options such as oregano and garlic. Consider having decaffeinated green or herbal tea rather than beverages with sugar, caffeine and/or alcohol. Incorporate heart-healthy foods into your diet. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and anchovies have omega-3s. A handful of almonds or walnuts are a healthy snack. Other beneficial foods include tomatoes, berries, flaxseeds, asparagus, broccoli, kidney and Black beans. Talk to your doctor about having an occasional small portion of dark chocolate or a 4-ounce glass of Red wine as a treat that can also help reduce your cholesterol. Work with a dietitian or a diabetes nurse educator to help you create a meal plan.
- Regular exercise is another way to lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of developing heart disease and shed unwanted pounds. Make exercise enjoyable, so you look forward to it. Try to fit in at least a half hour of aerobics daily. Take a walk around the neighborhood or get workout equipment and fitness DVDs to use at home. Mix up your routine to make exercising fun. Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise plan. If you have trouble staying motivated, exercise with a friend or work with a physical therapist or a personal trainer. Sometimes the cost of joining a gym or working with a physical therapist or trainer is covered by your health insurance. Contact your insurance company to find out more.
Cholesterol matters when you have diabetes. High cholesterol and blood sugar levels can put you at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Regular testing and medical exams coupled with healthy lifestyle habits can help you control your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.