Many people think that cholesterol is generally bad but there is also good cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) which helps with the removal of other cholesterol from the bloodstream. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is actually bad cholesterol. Its name comes from the fact that it builds on the walls of the blood vessels causing them to shrink which on the other hand narrows the passageway. A clot can form on these spots and get trapped on the narrowed blood vessel which might lead to stroke or heart attack. These two conditions are extremely dangerous, so it is in everybody’s best interest to prevent them.
As diabetes has a tight relationship with cholesterol meaning that high blood sugar damages the lining of the arteries which in turn causes cholesterol to build up on them more easily. People with diabetes usually have lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and higher levels of LDL/non-HDL (bad) cholesterol. This imbalance of lipids is really common and it is called dyslipidemia which means that arteries are more likely to become narrow or blocked. You can also learn more about the diabetes effect on the human body in our latest whitepaper.
According to Mayo Clinic*, the optimal levels of bad cholesterol (HDL) in the human body are as follows:
|Men||Less than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L)||60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above|
|Women||Less than 50 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L)||60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or above|
Note: To determine the cholesterol levels in one’s body – a blood test is required.
In this article, we wanted to gather as many useful tips and tricks on how to manage your cholesterol as a person with diabetes, so that you will have a balanced ratio of the good and the bad cholesterol in your bloodstream.
Here it goes:
- Get active – increase your physical activity as it helps the production of good cholesterol instead of bad ones. Try aerobic exercises that increase your heart rate but they are still with a moderate intensity so that you won’t breathe heavily. It is recommended for adults aged 18-64 to have 30-60 minutes of training sessions 5 days a week. For the elderly 65+, a maximum 30-minute workout routine with light to moderate intensity is preferable 5 days a week.
- A balanced diet – lifestyle changes are hard to make as habits are harder to break. The vicious circle of snaking and eating something that “won’t hurt” needs to come to an end. By eating healthy and nutritious foods you make sure to maintain steady cholesterol levels. You can also log your cholesterol in the Diabetes:M app and easily keep track of it.
- Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI) – a certain BMI correlates to good weight management. Try to fit into your desired BMI as this will greatly benefit your good cholesterol levels.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats and replace them with healthy fats – saturated and trans fats have fatty acid chains with all single bonds and are usually solid at room temperature. Most food items in the supermarket contain these fats: fried foods, commercial baked goods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, coffee creamer, etc. “Good” unsaturated fats on the other hand are present in vegetable oils (such as olive, canola, sunflower, soy, and corn), nuts, seeds, and fish.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids – to further highlight the importance of good fats, we wanted to point out that these particular fats are not produced by the body. To substitute the need for omega-3 fatty acids you need to eat foods rich in them: flaxseeds/flaxseeds oil, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, salmon, herring, and more.
- Increase the intake of soluble fiber – it helps reduce cholesterol absorption into the bloodstream and lowers blood sugar levels. Soluble fiber is also associated with the health of your gut and the production of good bacteria. Foods containing higher amounts of soluble fiber are apples, beans, peas, oats, carrots, citrus fruits, and more.
- Include whey protein into your diet – according to a 2020 study whey protein has a positive impact on glycemic control in people with diabetes. It also helps lower blood pressure and overall cholesterol levels including LDL cholesterol. Whey protein is found in dairy products as well as in supplements.
- Create a low-cholesterol diet plan – consult with a dietitian or at least take into consideration the above-mentioned foods that go along intending to lower the bad cholesterol intake. Refer to the table below for healthier food choices.
- Minimize alcohol intake – high quantities of alcohol do not go hand in hand with a healthy balanced diet. Drink in moderation – a maximum of 1 alcoholic drink a day.
- Quit smoking – smoking lowers the levels of good cholesterol and increases the levels of bad cholesterol. This is why it is essential to quit smoking.
- Manage stress levels – when the human body is under stress for a longer period it produces cortisol which triggers more cholesterol to enter your bloodstream.
|Try to eat more of:||Try to eat less of:|
|oily fish, like mackerel and salmon||meat pies, sausages, and fatty meat|
|brown rice, bread and pasta||butter, lard, and ghee|
|nuts and seeds||cream and hard cheese, like cheddar|
|fruits and vegetables||cakes and biscuits|
|food that contains coconut oil or palm oil|
Cholesterol is indeed a huge component to consider when managing blood glucose levels and adjusting insulin intake as a person with diabetes. The Diabetes:M app allows you to have a wider picture of the chronic condition. You can track your food intake, medications, and insulin doses alongside your blood glucose levels. It is free of charge and compatible with Android and iOS devices. Download it from here.
Top 5 lifestyle changes to improve your cholesterol
11 foods that lower cholesterol
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fact Sheet for Health Professionals)