Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) that is made by the liver. Cholesterol is vital for normal body function. Every cell in our body has cholesterol in its outer layer.
Low-density-lipotrotein (LDL) cholesterol = "bad" cholesterol
When too much LDL cholesterol is in the blood, it may be deposited in the inner walls of the arteries. Together with other substances, it can form plaque and clog the arteries (hardening of the arteries), causing the risk of heart disease to increase. People with diabetes have the same risk for heart disease and stroke as those who already have cardiovascular disease, so need to strive for even lower levels of LDL cholesterol. Your healthcare provider may suggest it is below 2.0 mmol/L. A person with diabetes who lowers his or her LDL cholesterol can reduce cardiovascular complications by 20% to 50%.
High-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol = "good" cholesterol
Having the opposite effect of LDL cholesterol, HDL helps the body by removing cholesterol from the blood. Therefore, the higher the HDL cholesterol level, the better.
Triglycerides = “ugly” fat
Triglycerides are the main form in which fats exist in the body. They come from fats eaten in foods, and they are also made in the body by the liver. High blood glucose levels will often cause triglycerides to rise. A high triglyceride level raises the chances for a heart attack or stroke if levels of triglycerides are too high. A high triglyceride level contributes to atherosclerosis (a build-up of plaque on the inner lining of the arteries) that can cause them to harden and reduce blood flow.
What is dyslipidemia
What should my targets be?
For most people, the LDL, HDL and triglycerides numbers to aim for are -
|Total cholesterol||Less than||4.0 mmol/L|
|LDL cholesterol||Less than||2.0 mmol/L|
|HDL cholesterol||Greater than or equal to||1.0 mmol/L|
|Triglycerides||Less than||1.7 mmol/L|
Note – ask your doctor or nurse to write down your readings so that you can keep an eye on them
How does diabetes affect cholesterol?
Diabetes tends to lower "good" cholesterol levels and raise triglyceride and "bad" cholesterol levels.
What can I do to improve my numbers?
It's a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse how often to have your cholesterol checked (as a minimum - every year, or more often if there's a problem). Here are some steps to improve cholesterol levels -
- If you smoke, quit
- Lose weight if needed
- Exercise most days of the week (brisk walking for 30 minutes/day is a good goal)
- Eat plenty of fresh veggies, whole grains, and fruit
- Limit saturated fats in meals, usually found for example, in butter, most cheese, sausages, hamburgers. Use monounsaturated fats which usually come from plants, for example avocado oil, or olive oil
- Limit drinking alcohol
- Your doctor may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicine
Cholesterol is also affected by blood pressure and blood glucose. If blood pressure and blood glucose levels are high, cholesterol levels may be off as well.
Is there treatment with medicines for high cholesterol levels?
Treatment with medicines may be advised by your healthcare professional.