Diabetes and High Cholesterol: A Dangerous Duo

Even on their own, diabetes and high cholesterol are serious health issues. But together, they can spell trouble. "Diabetes already puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease," says Haidar Yassin, MD, of SUNY Downstate Medical Center of Brooklyn, New York. "And if you have both diabetes and high cholesterol, you're even more at risk."

The good news is that if you have diabetes and high cholesterol, you can take action now to lower your cholesterol:

  • Pay attention to the numbers, Yassin recommends. Your LDL (low-density lipoproteins), the "bad" cholesterol, and your triglycerides (another kind of blood fat) should be as low as possible. Your HDL (high-density lipoproteins), the "good" cholesterol, should be as high as possible. Aim for an LDL of less than 100 mg/dl, triglycerides of less than 150 mg/dl, and an HDL of higher than 40 mg/dl for men and 50 mg/dl for women, recommends the American Diabetes Association.
  • Monitor your carb intake, advises Joseph McCormick, MD, Dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health, Brownsville Regional Campus. If you consume cakes, cookies, and white bread, you most likely should be reducing your intake. "Carbs are likely to contribute to being overweight," McCormick says. Make sure the majority of the carbs you eat are the "good" carbs: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Take a long, hard look at the kinds of fat you are consuming and consider making some modifications, McCormick says. "Eat fat in moderation," he advises. "This means eating less meat, for one thing."
  • Aim to consume no more than 7 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats, recommends the American Diabetes Association. Not sure how much fat that is? Most people should eat no more than about 15 grams of saturated fat daily, which is not much at all when you consider than just one ounce of cheese has 8 grams of saturated fat. Saturated fat, known to be a culprit in the development of high blood cholesterol, is found not just in butter, lard, and bacon, but in chicken and turkey with the skin on, cream sauces, and chocolate, among many other foods.
  • Replace less healthy fats like butter, substitute canola oil, avocados, olive oil, almonds, sesame seeds, and peanut butter. But remember to use these sparingly and in place of, not in addition to, other fats.
  • Keep in mind that having a high cholesterol level doesn't necessarily happen because you're eating too much fat. Some people have a genetic predisposition to high cholesterol. Your doctor may prescribe a cholesterol-lowering drug, McCormick explains.
  • Reduce lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Yassin recommends. If you smoke, quit. If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice for lowering it. And if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, get moving. You'll feel better, you'll look better, and you'll be giving yourself a chance at a better, healthier life.



"All about Cholesterol." American Diabetes Association.

"Fat and Diabetes." American Diabetes Association.