Cholesterol and the Complications of Living with Type 2 Diabetes
Let me say straight off that regardless of whether one has diabetes or not, cholesterol has an important role to play in our health. Unhealthy cholesterol levels can increase the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease, which is why people with diabetes are advised to get their blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels monitored at least once a year. We already know that diabetes means the risk for heart disease, so keeping cholesterol levels in check is a must.
Cholesterol levels are affected by diet, weight, exercise, age and gender. Then there’s heredity and other causes like medications, conditions and diseases.
A brief overview of cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy fat that exists in all cell membranes in the body tissues. It is insoluble in blood and travels through the plasma in the blood. Some cholesterol is necessary for producing cell membrane and hormones. Too much, especially of the wrong type can be fatal.
Cholesterol comes from fats in the food we consume (eggs, dairy, meat and poultry). Besides this, our bodies produce it, thanks to trans fats in some of the foods we eat.
Let’s get a bit technical here. We hear about good cholesterol bad cholesterol, HDL, LDL, Triglycerides. What happens is this: cholesterol is attached to a protein and this is called a lipoprotein, which travels through the blood. These can be of different densities. Then there are triglycerides.
- LDL or low density lipoproteins or bad cholesterol builds plaque in the artery walls, narrowing them. An increase of LDLs in the blood increases the risk of heart disease. Target levels should be 100 and below if you have diabetes and no heart health issues. For pre-existing heart conditions, 70 or lower is better.
- HDL or high density lipoproteins or good cholesterol zaps bad cholesterol in the blood, so the more one has of it, the better. If HDL is low, risk of heart disease is high. Target score should be above 50 for women and over 40 for men.
- Triglycerides are very low density lipoproteins or VLDL. They are not the same as cholesterol. Nevertheless, they are a type of fat that play a role in raising the risk of heart disease, like LDL. So, high triglycerides are a no-no. Aim for lower than 150.
With Type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar increases LDL cholesterol levels. This reduces the body’s ability to remove cholesterol. With high blood sugar, LDL and the LDL receptors in the liver are coated with sugar (glycosylated) and this gets in the way of the liver’s ability to remove cholesterol from the blood stream. This in turn triggers the hardening of the arteries and increases the risk of fatal heart disease.
If insulin levels are high, this can also increase LDL levels.
Diabetics who indulge in diets rich in carbs can elevate their insulin levels.
When cholesterol builds up in the blood vessels, it can impair or block circulation and that is why one must keep it at safe levels.
Can you control your cholesterol naturally?
Yes. Here are some basic tips:
- Include low cholesterol foods in your diet. Eat your colors through vegetables and fruits. Stick to foods that are low in saturated fat and trans fat. Include foods high in fiber.
- Quit smoking. Smoking lowers your good cholesterol or HDL.
- Exercise to maintain healthy weight. Being overweight increases your triglyceride levels and lowers HDL Cholesterol and this can increase the risk for heart disease
- If on medication, take it regularly and combine it with a low cholesterol diet
The complications of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes can be easy to miss, particularly in the early stages, as I did – because I did not feel any different. Unfortunately, it quietly affects major organs in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, nerves, eyes and kidneys. Diabetes also causes hearing impairment, foot damage, skin and mouth problems and affects bone health. Some of these can cause disabilities or prove fatal. Keeping blood sugar levels in check can prevent or at least slow down the complications.
Here’s a quick road map of diabetes, and where to look for problems: I thought this would be easier to look at than describe it in text. I’ll talk about these in detail over the next few days!
(Image Source: http://www.myendohealth.com)
Treating type 2 diabetes focuses on lowering high cholesterol levels, reducing high blood pressure and controlling high blood sugar with diet and exercise. If that doesn’t have an impact, medication cannot be avoided.
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Living With Type 2 Diabetes: Cholesterol and Complications of Diabetes
Day 3 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge