The whole world is up in arms against cholesterol, but most of us do not really know what it is. Cholesterol is a waxy lipid in your blood that is made by the liver and is also synthesised from the food that you eat. And contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not really “bad bad” but is necessary for certain vital functions of the human body like the production of hormones and the generation of tissue and cell membranes. The problem however, occurs when we tend to have a higher level of cholesterol than what is healthy for the human body, and this is the case with a majority of us because of the large amount of fatty, sugar rich and processed foods that we consume throughout the day.
More than normal levels of cholesterol in the blood stream are a direct cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart attacks, coronary artery disease and many other cardiovascular problems. High amounts of cholesterol can prove to be especially deadly for people with diabetes because they have a two to four times higher risk of being afflicted with heart and cardio vascular problems than normal people.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in people suffering from diabetes. Because of the high fatality risk caused by a deadly combination of diabetes and cholesterol, it is especially important for people with diabetes to take special care to control their cholesterol levels.
How Does Diabetes Affect Body Cholesterol Levels?
The amount of cholesterol in your blood stream is determined using a lipid profile test, which measures and profiles the different types of fats present in your blood stream. A lipid profile takes into account the total amount of cholesterol present, and the level of LDL, HDL and triglycerides in the blood stream.
LDL or low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol is bad cholesterol because high levels of this leads to fat deposits on the inner walls of your arteries and makes the passage inside your arteries narrower than normal. This is a direct cause of many heart diseases and heart attack. In many cases, this may cause artery blockages that lead to heart attacks.
HDL or high-density-lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is good cholesterol because it removes artery blocking bad cholesterol from your bloodstream. Therefore, the higher the amount of HDL that you have, the better it is for your health.
Triglycerides are produced by the liver and are also formed through the fats that are consumed in foods. Most fats in the body exist in the form of triglycerides. A more than normal level of these fats in the body can contribute to hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. A person suffering from diabetes is prone to a condition called diabetic dyslipidemia, where diabetes contributes towards increasing the levels of triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol while decreasing the levels of HDLs or good cholesterol.
Therefore, people suffering from diabetes are automatically at risk of coronary heart diseases, atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases caused by the accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries.
What Is the Right Cholesterol Level for Diabetics?
According to the ADA, adults suffering from diabetes should maintain tryglyceride levels below 150 mg/dL(milligrams per deciliter )and their LDL level below 100 mg/dL. Their good cholesterol or HDL level should be higher than 50 mg/dL for women and 40 mg/dL for men. People suffering from diabetes should also get their lipid profiling done regularly as advised by their physician.
How Can Diabetics Maintain Proper Cholesterol Levels?
Having A Balanced Diet: People suffering from diabetes should take a diet where not more than 7% of their total calories come from saturated fats. This would generally mean restraining from animal fats. Consumption of monounsaturated fats that help in raising HDL levels is advised while trans fats need to be totally abstained from. A high consumption of fiber, which has been known to control bad cholesterol is also advised. The best thing here would be to ask your nutritionist or doctor to draw up a diet plan and adhere to it.
Regular Exercise: Exercising regularly raises the levels of HDL while lowering the level of bad cholesterol in your body. It also helps in keeping your heart and cardio vascular system fit, preventing many heart problems.
Maintaining the Right Weight: Being overweight greatly increases your chances of having heart problems. Combine this with diabetes and doctors say that you are the prime candidate for heart attacks and strokes. If you have diabetes, keep your weight under control through a combination of regular exercise and a balanced diet.
Switching To A Healthier Lifestyle: People with diabetes need to avoid and get rid of unhealthy habits that generally facilitate heart problems like drinking and smoking etcetera. People with high blood pressure and stress related problems should take up activities like yoga and meditation for de-stressing. Combining exercise and a low fat diet with other healthy lifestyle choices will generally help keep your heart healthy. In many cases, you might have to take medications prescribed by your doctor for lowering your blood pressure or cholesterol levels.