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Diabetes & High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is made by the liver. Cholesterol is also found in certain foods that we eat such as dairy products, eggs, meat and some shell fish, fried and processed foods.

Cholesterol is important for the body and it is found in all cells of the body. Cholesterol is needed so that the body can make hormones, vitamin D and bile acids that help you to digest fat. Cholesterol helps build healthy cells but when your cholesterol levels in your blood are too high, this increases your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Cholesterol travels through your bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins: Lipoproteins are packages made of fat on the inside and proteins on the outside.

If you cholesterol levels are high the excess fat is deposited in your blood vessels. This makes it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries, and your heart may not get as much oxygen as it needs increasing your risk of heart attack. Decreased blood flow to the brain can cause a stroke. 

Two kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body: low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). Having healthy levels of both types of lipoproteins is important.

LDL cholesterol is often called “bad” cholesterol because if the LDL levels in your blood are high it can lead to a build-up of cholesterol in your arteries leading to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes

HDL cholesterol is often called “good” cholesterol. This “good cholesterol” carries cholesterol from other parts of your body back to your liver and your liver then removes the cholesterol from your body.

If you are a person living with diabetes, and you have high cholesterol, you are at even greater risk of developing a heart attack or having a stroke.

Like high blood pressure, you will not feel any symptoms of having high cholesterol, hence it is often referred to as the “silent killer”.

While high cholesterol can be inherited, often it is as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle: too much food – in particular the “wrong” food and drink and not enough exercise.

Following a healthy lifestyle which includes healthy eating and exercise will help to improve your cholesterol levels. If this is not enough to bring your cholesterol levels down, your doctor will prescribe cholesterol lowering drugs for you (Statins).

Testing for cholesterol:

The only way to test for cholesterol is to do a blood test.  Some pharmacies and even your doctor may have a “point-of-care” cholesterol testing machine.  Your pharmacist or doctor will merely prick your finger, place a little drop of blood on a test strip, and insert it into the machine.  Normally within about 5 minutes you will get a result.

The other method is for your doctor to draw blood and send it off to the laboratory – it normally takes at least a day to get the results.  If you have diabetes, you should have your cholesterol tested regularly, and if your levels are raised your doctor will prescribe cholesterol lowering medication for you along with healthy eating and exercise.

To view a video on high cholesterol click here.