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How Diabetes affects Cholesterol?

Updated at: Mar 17, 2012
Written by: Gunjan RastogiPublished at: Mar 03, 2012
How Diabetes affects Cholesterol?

Diabetics usually suffer from elevated insulin levels that increase the LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and cause atherosclerosis and several cardiovascular diseases.

Diabetes affects CholesterolDiabetes contributes to high cholesterol levels, which is as risky as high blood pressure. Diabetes escalates the LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol level, which affects the body’s ability to remove cholesterol. Therefore, diabetic people need to keep a close eye on their cholesterol levels.

The decreased good cholesterols and increased bad cholesterol due to diabetes give birth to a condition called diabetic dyslipidemia. Diabetes with high LDL cholesterol makes a deadly combination and puts the patient at a risk of atherosclerosis (clogged arteries due to excess fat in the body) and various heart ailments.

Due to the presence of high blood sugar, the LDL cholesterol and its receptors in the liver get sugar coated. This diminishes the ability of the liver to eliminate cholesterol from the bloodstream. Accumulation of cholesterol in blood vessels can develop restrictions or blockages in the blood circulation, which can be detrimental. Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) also increases the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases.

Diabetic people usually suffer from elevated insulin levels that increase the LDL cholesterol and cause atherosclerosis. The arteries become narrow in atherosclerosis thereby, slowing the flow of blood to the heart. This reduced blood flow can cause chest pain or heart attack. Diabetic people having normal LDL cholesterol levels also have high risk of cardiovascular diseases.

High insulin level lowers the HDL cholesterol (‘good cholesterol’) that helps to remove plaque (accumulated cholesterol) from the clogged arteries. Low HDL cholesterol narrows the blood vessels thereby, limiting the blood flow to the heart and accelerating the risk of cardiovascular diseases.  

The amount of glycaemia in the body of diabetics frequently changes, which directly affects the level of LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Therefore, a patient with type 2 diabetes must measure their cholesterol levels at least once in two years. In diabetics, optimal cholesterol levels are:

  • LDL cholesterol levels: <100 mg/dl

  • HDL cholesterol levels:  >45 mg/dl

Diabetic people can control their cholesterol levels by consuming less saturated fat found in fatty meats, chicken skin, non-skim milk, ice cream, cheese and junk food. Cutting the fat completely from your diet is not possible as our body needs fat for its proper functioning. Therefore, diabetics need to consume “good” fat such as nuts, olive oil, foods containing omega-3 acids and salmon fish. Good fat also helps in lowering the elevated cholesterol levels. Diabetics must have a proper exercise regime and well-planned diet. Diabetics, who smoke, should immediately restrain smoking. For proper advice on lowering the cholesterol levels, diabetics should talk to their doctors.


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