Diabetes And Cholesterol: What’s The Connection?
Cholesterol consists mainly of fats and lipoproteins. Lipoproteins consist of cholesterol, proteins and fats (triglycerides). Cholesterol has two origins. Our bodies make some cholesterol on their own. Cholesterol also comes from animal products, such as milk, eggs, cheese and meat. Cholesterol has a consistency similar to that of gum or wax. Small amounts of cholesterol are important for healthy cell membranes (good cholesterol), and some cholesterol is called “bad cholesterol” because these cholesterol particles tend to cause atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. Some cholesterol is “good” cholesterol, meaning that it tends to take away the bad cholesterol and flush it out of the body. That’s why you want the good cholesterol around. The relationship between cholesterol and diabetes is explained in more detail below.
The chemical composition of cholesterol
Technically and chemically, cholesterol is a “sterol”, or C27H45OH, which circulates through cell membranes in body fluids and plays a role in participating in various metabolic functions in the body. As mentioned above, everything must be in moderation. This is also true for cholesterol, as an increase in “bad” cholesterol or LDL (low-density lipoprotein) increases the risk of heart disease.
Types of cholesterol
Looking at the cholesterol numbers shows that they are broken down into four different meaningful numbers. On some lab reports, you may see a fifth number for VLDL cholesterol. Here is a breakdown of your blood cholesterol levels
Your cholesterol number is first reported as a whole. In other words, it is the total amount of different types of cholesterol in your blood. In general, the goal for total cholesterol is to stay below 200 mg/dl. Just because your total cholesterol index is in the normal range does not mean that your other cholesterol indices will be in the same range. For example, many people with diabetes are dyslipidemic, with a mix of “good” low cholesterol and “bad” high cholesterol. In most cases, the total cholesterol index will be within the normal range. Let’s look at some of the other numbers included in a cholesterol blood test.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C-bad cholesterol)
High LDLC levels are associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. These are the largest cholesterol molecules and are responsible for the formation of plaque in the arteries. Imagine large chunks of sticky gunk or wax blocking your blood vessels of all sizes. These large, sticky cholesterol clots can partially or eventually completely block your blood vessels, leading to heart disease, heart attack or stroke. They can also break up and spread the clots to your heart or brain, leading to a heart attack or stroke. People with high LDL-C levels should take a statin and work with their doctor to manage their LDL-C levels. Interventions for high LDL-C levels include low saturated fats and trans fats. Speaking of diet. Generally, you want to keep your LDL-C level below 100, but if you are already at high risk for cardiovascular disease, your doctor may put you on intensive care and tell you to keep your LDL-C level below 70 mg/dl. More on that later.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL-C “good cholesterol”)
The good news is that some fats are actually good for us. They appear in the blood in the form of “good cholesterol” molecules or HDL-C. These cholesterol molecules are smaller and less sticky. You can increase your good cholesterol (HDL-C) by increasing your intake of “good cholesterol” foods and by eating foods that contain monounsaturated fats. These include oils that are liquid rather than solid at room temperatures, such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Your HDL-C levels should be above 50 mg/dl. Low HDL-C levels put you at risk for cardiovascular disease; conversely, high HDL-C levels protect your heart, and high levels of HDL-C are excreted from the body through the liver. The natural cleansing of LDL-C occurs. High levels of triglycerides tend to lower HDL-C levels in the blood; other factors that can lower HDL-C levels include smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise. HDL-C levels also tend to be lower in people with type 2 diabetes. Lowering blood pressure by taking medications such as steroids or beta-blockers can also help lower HDL-C levels.
Cholesterol and prediabetes
Dyslipidemia may indicate to a health care provider that a person needs to be tested for prediabetes or diabetes because of the link between insulin resistance and dyslipidemia in type 2 diabetes. A patient’s A1C level may be between 4.8% and 5.6% of prediabetes. The goal is to “boost” the management of dyslipidemia and prediabetes through diet and exercise. To prevent type 2 diabetes, the general goal is to lose 5-7% of total body weight and to exercise 150 minutes per week in addition to a healthy diet.
Diabetes Prevention Programs
There are a growing number of diabetes prevention programs around the country. These programs are designed to help people achieve weight loss, nutrition and physical activity goals to prevent type 2 diabetes in the future. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a model diabetes prevention program (DPP) and organizations like the YMCA are beginning to implement these programs in their communities. Some insurance companies are focusing on offering these programs and, in some areas, scholarships. Check with your individual insurance company for benefits that may include these programs and check with local programs that offer PLR for scholarship opportunities. A heart-healthy diet, for example, can not only reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, but also help lower cholesterol levels. You can also learn how to adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, which not only reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes but also lowers cholesterol levels.
Can lowering cholesterol help prevent diabetes?
Since dyslipidemia seems to be at least a precursor to type 2 diabetes, it makes sense that not having dyslipidemia or keeping your cholesterol numbers all in the normal range may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Is high cholesterol a risk factor for diabetes?
Diabetes has been identified as a risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). Therefore, like smoking and lack of exercise, diabetes is a predisposing factor for CHD. On a side note, the risk of CHD in people with diabetes who do not have a history of CHD is the same as in people who do not have diabetes and do not have heart disease. This is important because it means that people with CHD have a higher risk of developing CHD. People with diabetes are also two to four times more likely to die from a coronary heart attack, especially in the first 28 days after a coronary heart attack. Women with diabetes are more likely to die after a coronary event. Research in this area has been replicated and is highly reliable.