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How Diabetes Affects Your Cholesterol Levels

Managing one medical condition can be enough of a challenge for anyone. However, understanding how diabetes affects your cholesterol levels will help protect you from a long list of other roadblocks on your way to better health.


First, a little background on cholesterol:

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by the body and found in some animal-based foods.

Blood cholesterol levels describe a group of fats also known as lipoproteins which include HDL-the “good” cholesterol and LDL-the “bad” cholesterol.

Cholesterol is important to overall health, but if the levels of the “bad” cholesterol, (LDL) are too high, it can contribute to narrowed or blocked arteries.

Unfortunately, people with diabetes are more prone to having unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels, which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.

By understanding how diabetes affects your cholesterol levels, you can lower your risk of complications and premature death.

How Diabetes Affects Your Cholesterol Levels-4 
Your levels of LDL cholesterol (the harmful kind) is raised with a diet high in saturated and trans fats

But you can also prevent the healthy cholesterol (HDL) from doing its job by:

  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • A sedentary lifestyle

A word about Triglycerides:

  • Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body.
  • Normal triglyceride levels vary by age and sex.

But, high triglyceride levels combined with low HDL (good) cholesterol or with high LDL (bad) cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis is the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls that increase the risk of heart attack, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and stroke.

Finally, what does diabetes have to do with any of this?

 Here’s how diabetes affects your cholesterol levels:

  • Diabetes tends to lower “good” cholesterol levels (HDL) and raise triglyceride and “bad” cholesterol levels (LDL), which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.

This condition is known as diabetic dyslipidemia.

  • What it means is that your lipid profile (fat, oils, and waxes) is going in the wrong direction.

It’s a deadly combination that puts you at risk for premature coronary heart disease and atherosclerosis.

Studies show a link between insulin resistance, which is an indicator of Type 2 Diabetes, and…

  • Diabetic Dyslipidemia: An abnormal amount of fats and triglycerides in the blood.
  • Atherosclerosis: Thickening of the artery walls.
  • And Small Vessel Disease: A condition in which the walls of the small arteries in the heart are damaged.

These conditions can develop even before diabetes is diagnosed.

The main goal of learning how Diabetes affects your cholesterol levels is to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

If you follow these tips, you’ll be giving your body what it needs to stay healthy and active.

1. Watch your numbers

You already know that it’s important to watch your blood sugar levels. It’s time to watch your cholesterol numbers, as well.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), most adults with diabetes should aim for:

 ➡ LDL levels of less than 100 
 ➡ HDL levels greater than 40 for men with diabetes and greater than 50 for women with diabetes.

Speaking of numbers, the American Heart Association encourages you to keep track of these too:

Total triglycerides should be less than 200.

The AHA also suggests that diabetics aim for a blood pressure of less than 130/80 mmHg.

**Read our article on why knowing your cholesterol numbers is not enough.

2. Watch out for the rest of your health too.

Diabetes can also affect other parts of the body over time. It’s important to stay on top of all areas of your health as you go.

Your eyes: Both high cholesterol and diabetes can affect your eye health, so be sure to see your eye doctor every year for a checkup. Read up on vision problems related to diabetes here).

Your feet: Diabetes can affect the nerves in your feet, making them less sensitive. Check your feet regularly for any blisters, sores, or swelling and make sure that any wounds heal as they’re supposed to. If they don’t, check with your doctor.

Your teeth: There is some evidence that diabetes can increase the risk of gum infections. See your dentist regularly and practice careful oral care.

Your immune system: As we age, our immune system gradually weakens. Other conditions like diabetes can weaken it even more, so it’s important to get your vaccinations as you need them.

Get your flu shot each year, ask about the shingles vaccine after you turn 60, and ask about the pneumonia shot after you turn 65.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that you get your hepatitis B vaccination soon after you’re diagnosed with diabetes, as people with diabetes have higher rates of hepatitis B.

Remember that everything in your body is interconnected. None of the parts in there function alone.

Understanding how diabetes affects your cholesterol level is just a piece of the overall picture that will define your longevity and your ability to live a life you love.

How Diabetes Affects Your Cholesterol Levels


 ➡ The Top Seven Things You Want To Know About Cholesterol

➡ Why Knowing Your Cholesterol Numbers Is Not Enough