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Cholesterol and the Complications of Living with Type 2 Diabetes

written by Vidya Sury April 3, 2014
Living with type 2 diabetes complications cholesterol

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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.

Living with type 2 diabetes complications cholesterol

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!

Diabetes complications Living with type 2 diabetes

(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.

Thank you for visiting and commenting!

Living With Type 2 Diabetes: Cholesterol and Complications of Diabetes

Day 3 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

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Obsessivemom April 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm

You’re right about diabetes being easy to miss. Which is why we are very particular about our annual health cheek ups. Ae there any symptoms? Some people say you feel thirsty too often – is that right?

Vidya Sury April 3, 2014 at 3:53 pm

The classic symptoms are excessive thirst, drowsiness and frequent urination, Tulika. In fact, that is what alerted me to the fact that something’s unusual. Even then, I thought it was the heat – because the weather is pretty warm. On impulse I went for the full master health check and got the shock of my life. 🙂

If these symptoms are not obvious, diabetes can still exist. Wounds that won’t heal normally, skin issues, high BP…all these can be precursors of the condition. The best thing to do is get a regular health check so that any problems can be caught and arrested before they get worse.

Thank you for visiting.

S(t)ri April 3, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Nice one yet again. I am pinning the photo, it seems useful 🙂

Shailajav April 3, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Vidya, what about oils to use to control cholesterol levels? I hear so many conflicting reviews about refined oil, olive oil, coconut oil that I feel going oil-less is better at times. And how frequently do I need to check cholesterol levels? I got a master check up done in October last year. So, how soon after?

Kathy April 3, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Very interesting and informative article! I had gestational diabetes through pregnancy so they warned me that I may be at risk of one day developing the disease. My father had it, and his father before him. So my chances are not very good of avoiding diabetes. I already am on medication for high blood pressure so I am following in my Dad’s footsteps in that regard.

Damaria Senne April 3, 2014 at 8:35 pm

The diagram was inspired, thank you so much. I called Mma over while reading this post and read it out loud to her, while we were also looking at the pic. We took some classes at the hospital on diabetes ( our local hospital offers classes as part of an outpatient programme) but we still needed to know more and to understand how this illness works.

As you know, I grow our food and one of the reasons I persevered so much on it is that I needed a wide variety of vegetables and fruit on our table without spending too much money, so I can not only help Mma control diabetes, but also help the whole family get healthier.

Ananya Kiran April 3, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Good and bad cholesterol – Very informative !
I really like your blog style.

Bharat April 4, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Hi Vidya,

I too feel excessive thirst but I don’t go to urinate quickly, though I did check my sugar level and it was 73 only so there is no chance to diabetes. Do you have any idea what else cause excessive thirst?

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