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High Cholesterol

Diabetes and High Cholesterol

Cholesterol levels are used to predict heart health

High cholesterol levels may be a sign that you are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke.

However, it is the balance of cholesterol levels that is a better indicator heart health and it is the balance of cholesterol that your doctors should take into account before advising treatment.

Lifestyle modifications and treatment are commonly used to reduce high cholesterol levels


Whilst cholesterol levels may rise for a number of reasons, high cholesterol levels over a period of years is often associated with a greater risk of health problems.

Too low cholesterol can be more dangerous than too high cholesterol.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of blood fat (blood lipid) that forms the membrane of each cell of the body. Cholesterol is carried in the blood by proteins called lipoproteins and it is these that are measured when you have a cholesterol test.

These are:

  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)
  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL
  • Triglycerides

LDL is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, because it is this form of cholesterol that can build up in blood vessels


HDL is often referred to as ‘good cholesterol’, because it helps to clear excess LDL out of the blood.

Whilst LDL may be called bad cholesterol, it is needed for the body and is usually healthy as long as it is kept in balance by a sufficient level of HDL.

Triglycerides are another form of blood lipid (blood fat) and are also measured when a cholesterol test is taken.

Ratio of Total Cholesterol-to-HDL is taken by dividing the total cholesterol figure by the HDL figure. This provides a more reliable indicator of heart health than looking at the total cholesterol or LDL figures.

Usually diabetic patients face the below health issues pertaining to Heart.

  • Unbalanced cholesterol levels (dyslipidemia)
  • Too high triglyceride levels (hypertriglyceridemia)

Cholesterol targets for people with diabetes

In order to work out your risk of heart disease using a number of factors such as age, BMI, gender, blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels and which type of diabetes you have.

If you want a general guide of how healthy your cholesterol levels are, find out your total cholesterol-to-HDL ratio.

To find this, take your total cholesterol figure and divide it by your HDL figure. A result of less than four is healthy.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

High cholesterol does not usually present any symptoms in itself, however, people that have high or unbalanced cholesterol levels over a number of years are more likely to develop problems conditions such as heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

What causes high cholesterol? High or unhealthy cholesterol levels may be brought on by:

  • High-calorie diet
  • High-carbohydrate diets
  • Low physical activity
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • High alcohol intake

High cholesterol levels may also result from the following:

  • Hypothyroidism - an underactive thyroid
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Familial hypercholesterolaemia - a genetic condition that affects around 1 in 500 people
  • Diet and cholesterol

In the past, fat has been blamed for high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

Whilst some fatty foods, such as chips, crisps, pizza and pies are unhealthy, they are high carbohydrate foods as well as high-fat.

If you have healthy fats and follow a low-carb diet, you’re likely to have as good or better cholesterol levels and heart health than by following a low-fat diet.

Healthy fats are from natural sources and minimally processed, such as avocado, olive oil, unprocessed meat, oily fish, full fat dairy, nuts.

As we noted above, higher total cholesterol does not necessarily indicate unhealthy cholesterol levels. So, when reviewing your cholesterol levels, look at the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL.

Low-carb and ketogenic diets are particularly good at raising the level of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Diagnosing high cholesterol

A cholesterol test, which measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, non-HDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, should be performed at least once every year for people with diabetes.

It is more difficult to measure LDL cholesterol, and so non-HDL cholesterol is used instead of getting a direct LDL measurement.

Treating high cholesterol

If your cholesterol levels are found to be too high and unhealthily balanced, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take more physical exercise. They may also offer you treatment with cholesterol lowering drugs. Click here for more details LIPOMIN.

Try to cut down on any convenience foods you may be having and have home cooked or home prepared food where possible.

Consider using the plate method which is a good way to ensure you’re having appropriate portion sizes and getting enough vegetables.

Low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets are effective for getting a healthier balance of cholesterol.

If you need help with modifying your diet, arrange an appointment with a dietitian.

Regular exercise is also recommended. You should aim to dedicate 30 minutes or more to physical activity at least five times a week.

If you smoke, it is highly beneficial to quit smoking to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke.