Diabetes, Cholesterol & Heart Disease

Most people with diabetes have health problems — or risk factors — such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase one’s risk for heart disease and stroke. When combined with diabetes, these risk factors add up to big trouble. In fact, more than 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. With diabetes, heart attacks occur earlier in life and often result in death. By managing diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, people with diabetes can reduce their risk.

Nearly all people with diabetes have abnormal cholesterol levels which contribute to their increased risk for heart attack and stroke. By choosing foods wisely, increasing physical activity and taking medications, you can improve your cholesterol.

Indeed, some fats are bad. Saturated fats make our cell membranes stiff, raise cholesterol and blood pressure, and are associated with the development of type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Trans-fats, which are found in deep-fried foods and commercially baked goods, are very similar to saturated fats in their physical structure and in their bad effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood glucose control. They also raise cardiac mortality rates.

But there’s another kind of fat called essential fatty acids — and they are indeed essential. These unsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fats, make our cell membranes more flexible, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce mortality from heart disease. They are also required for the production of certain hormones that are essential for blood clotting, blood pressure control, and eye and brain function.

Unfortunately, humans are unable to make these fatty acids. So we must get them from the food we eat. Cold-water fish, such as bluefish and salmon, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and so are many plants, nuts, and seeds. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in grains, such as corn, along with corn oil and safflower oil, and in the meat of animals that have been fattened on grain. Mother’s milk is also rich in essential fatty acids.

Cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-ol) is a waxy, fat-like substance that is in all the body’s cells, including the blood. Your body needs cholesterol to make some hormones, vitamins, and to help you digest. Your body makes all of the cholesterol it needs. Cholesterol is also found in some foods you eat.

How to Lower LDL

Generally speaking, you want your LDL cholesterol to be less than 100. Here are some things you can do to lower your LDL cholesterol.

Stay physically active.

Eat a diet low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fats.

Keep your weight in a healthy range.

Avoid smoking.

How to Raise HDL

If your HDL cholesterol is lower than 40 you may want to work to raise it. There are many things you can do to raise your HDL cholesterol.

Stay physically active.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Avoid smoking.

Cut trans fats.

Increase monounsaturated fats in your diet. Monounsaturated fats include canola oil, avocado oil, or olive oil.

Add soluble fiber to your diet. Foods with soluble fiber include oats, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Some research has also shown that moderate alcohol consumption (1 or 2 drinks per day) can increase HDL levels. Be warned that more than 1 or 2 drinks per day can have a negative effect on your health. Talk to your 

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