The Relationship Between Diabetes and High Cholesterol


Not only do diabetes and high cholesterol increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, each seems to increase the likelihood of developing the other. Take steps to keep both under control in order to lessen your chance of heart attack or stroke.


Diabetes and High Cholesterol

What is diabetes?


Diabetes is a metabolic disease which causes you to have too much sugar in your blood. In Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, your body develops insulin resistance and fails to use insulin efficiently. Diabetes damages nerves and blood vessels, interferes with kidney function and can harm the retinas of your eyes.


What is high cholesterol?


Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in your blood necessary for healthy cells. Some cholesterol comes from food while other cholesterol is produced in your body. Cholesterol is divided into two types low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL is considered bad cholesterol because it can stick to your arteries and increase your risk of a heart attack or stoke. Having high cholesterol refers to high levels of LDL. HDL is the healthy cholesterol which helps remove LDL from your body.


What is the link between diabetes and high cholesterol?


People with diabetes, even if it is well-controlled, tend to have decreased HDL and increased LDL. Diabetes itself may increase cholesterol levels because the excess sugar in your blood can interfere with your liver's ability to remove LDL. Doctors have also noted that a pattern of rising LDL levels can predict the onset of diabetes.


Can you treat diabetes and high cholesterol together?


Medications to reduce your cholesterol levels can be taken in tandem with diabetes' prescriptions and insulin. In addition, lifestyle and dietary changes that are good for diabetes also help reduce cholesterol levels. Take a brisk, 30-minute walk every day. Stop smoking and watch your weight. Eat a high fiber, low cholesterol diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Add monosaturated fats like olive oil and avocados.


The American Heart Association points out that cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, your doctor may suggest that you aim for cholesterol levels stricter than the usual targets to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke.