February is Heart Month

by Alison Brinker, RD, LD and Susan Klick, MSN, RN, CNL

Diabetes and Cholesterol

Heart attack and stroke are the leading causes of death for people with diabetes.  Having lipid levels within the recommended range can help prevent heart attack and stroke.  Other factors contributing to heart attack and stroke are elevated blood pressure and elevated A1C levels.  By keeping these at the recommended levels your risk of complications from diabetes is decreased.  Lipid levels can improve with healthy eating, weight loss, physical activity, and, if necessary, medications.

Lipids are fat-like substances found in the blood.  Cholesterol and triglycerides are two types of lipids.  The body needs some lipids to stay healthy, but elevated lipid levels can damage artery walls, causing heart disease, hardening of the artery walls, and atherosclerosis all which can cause heart attack and stroke.

Cholesterol is found in the blood and some is actually made by the liver.  Cholesterol is also found only in animal foods such as eggs, milk, cheese, liver, meat and chicken.  The recommendation is for cholesterol levels to be under 200.

LDL (also called “bad cholesterol”) is found in the blood and high levels over time can damage arteries.  When LDL is present, high “plaque” forms in the blood and can block blood flow through arteries.  The recommendation is for LDL to be less than 100 or less than 70 if you have diabetes.  LDL is the most important factor in determining risk for heart disease.  You want to get this number as low as possible to lower your risk.

HDL (also called “good cholesterol”) is the lipid that works to clear LDL or bad cholesterol from the blood helping to keep arteries open.  When HDL is too low, not enough of the LDL cholesterol is removed from the blood increasing the risk of damage to the arteries.  The recommendation is HDL should be greater than 40 for women and greater than 50 for men.

Triglycerides, a fatty substance in the blood, high levels prevent HDL from removing LDL from the blood.  It is recommended the triglyceride level be below 150.

The Cholesterol/Diabetes Connection:  Glucose attaches to LDL’s in the blood.  LDL’s coated with glucose stay in the bloodstream longer, causing sticky plaques to form.  People with diabetes often have low levels of HDL and higher levels of triglycerides, raising the risk of heart attack or stroke.

Join the Diabetes Support Group on Thursday, February 18th at 10:00 a.m. in the Great Room at the Hyland Education Center for a discussion on Heart Health and Cholesterol. Registration is required. Please call 314-ANTHONY (800-554-9550) or register at http://www.stanthonysmedcenter.com/diabetes.




Sources:  Joslin Diabetes Center, Mayo Clinic, CDC, NIH






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