Most people with diabetes have heard the word cholesterol, and know that a high level is best avoided. This feature looks at lowering cholesterol and what cholesterol does to the body.

What is cholesterol and why lower it?

Cholesterol is a fatty deposit that can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke, particularly for people with diabetes. A buildup of cholesterol can make blood vessels narrower and more easily blocked.

Is cholesterol just bad for people with diabetes?

There are two forms of cholesterol. One is ‘bad’ cholesterol – Low Density Lipoprotein. The other helps to clear blood vessels and is ‘good’ cholesterol – High Density Lipoprotein.

How much LDL cholesterol should I aim for?

Healthcare professionals in the UK recommend that people with diabetes keep levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol under 2 millimoles per litre (mmol/L).

Furthermore, total recommended cholesterol levels should be under 4 mmol/L for people with type 2 diabetes.

How is high cholesterol treated?

Controversial medication Statins lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood, although not all people with diabetes agree with their use. Statins are available on prescription. Statins include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor)
  • Pravastatin (Lipostat)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor)
  • Simvastatin (Simzal, Zocorn, Zocor Heart-Pro)

Some research indicates that taking a statin if you have diabetes lowers the chance of heart or circulation problems whether you have high LDL cholesterol or heart problems However, many people with diabetes disagree with statin use – a whole topic in its own right.

What other treatments for cholesterol are available?

Further treatment for cholesterol includes fibrates, but they are less commonly prescribed and may only be given if a statin cannot be taken. Fish oils are also thought to lower levels of unhealthy fats called triglyceride.

Fish oil could include oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and trout. Fish oil is also available in capsules.

However, one study showed has shown that fish oil could raise levels of bad cholesterol. Niacin is another older treatment for high cholesterol, which has been largely discontinued due to side effects.

Another cholesterol treatment under investigation is Ezetimibe, which stops cholesterol getting from food into the body.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet and avoiding high-cholesterol food may help many people with diabetes to achieve and maintain a healthy cholesterol level.

What the community are saying about Lowering Cholesterol

  • Fergus : My cholesterol has never been raised and has not been affected by the additional cream, cheese, nuts and seeds and I am not on any medication for cholesterol even though I had strokes 4 years ago. It is all very difficult to work out what is best for us individually as we are just that – individuals!
  • Fergus : About two in three adults have a cholesterol level that is higher than recommended. Having high cholesterol affects your heart and blood vessels and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). High cholesterol causes fatty deposits (known as plaques) to build up inside your blood vessels. In time, the blood vessels supplying your heart may become so narrow that they can’t deliver enough oxygen to the heart muscle, particularly when you’re exerting yourself. This can cause you to feel chest pain (angina). If a fatty plaque breaks off, it may cause a blood clot which can block blood flow to your heart (heart attack) or brain (stroke).
  • Fergus : I don’t think though you can avoid the large body of evidence that shows a clear association between high cholesterol levels and CVD and also the benfits of lowering these levels if they are too high and you have diabetes
  • M4z : My cholesterol level when I was first diagnosed was 3.4 – and is now at 3.5. I’ve been Type 2 since 2003 on 2000mg Metformin, 80mg [reduced to 40mg since starting Byetta] Gliclazide and recently started taking 5 mg Byetta . He was still insistent that I should start “cholesterol reducing medication”. I refused, saying that as 5 is an average, I have a well below average level, and I’m quite happy with this.
  • Noblehead : I am a great believer in lowering cholesterol levels by natural means, although I know this isn’t always possible in some people. The general advice is to eat a well balanced diet with ample fruit and vegetables, whilst cutting back on your saturated fat intake.

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