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Diabetes Patients, Beware of Cholesterol

Diabetes Patients, Beware of Cholesterol

People who have diabetes are typically aware of the importance of managing their blood glucose levels. But when it comes to cholesterol, most diabetic patients have it checked but then don't control it, according to a new report from the charity Diabetes UK, and that could translate into a significant risk of heart disease.

Diabetes management also means cholesterol control

If you check the oil in your car, see that it's low, and then don't do anything about it, eventually your engine will seize up. If people with diabetes have their cholesterol checked annually, as Diabetes UK says 91.3% of them do, but then they don't follow up on managing their high cholesterol, "it is an issue that is putting the health of hundreds of thousands of people at risk," noted Barbara Young, chief executive of the nonprofit.

Those hundreds of thousands are based on the estimated 3.7 million people in the UK who have diabetes and data on the 1.9 million who were included in the report. In the United States, 25.8 million individuals have diabetes: 18.8 million diagnosed and 7.0 million undiagnosed, and an additional 79 million with prediabetes, according to the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet.

The Diabetes UK analysis of National Diabetes Audit data found that nearly 60% of people with diabetes who get their cholesterol checked are not properly managing this risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Compared with the general population, individuals who have both diabetes and high cholesterol have a twofold risk of stroke within the first five years of diagnosis.

Individuals with both conditions also have a greater risk of heart disease, which is linked to 52% of deaths among those who have type 2 diabetes and 44% of those with type 1.

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Young pointed out that it would make sense to prescribe medication, such as statins, for diabetics who have high cholesterol. However, "it is no good doing this without explaining the importance of taking the medication regularly and the potentially devastating consequences of not doing so."

Statins are associated with significant side effects and risks, and this is one reason why people are reluctant to take them. There are other ways to lower cholesterol levels, however, that do not involve drugs.

Nondrug methods to lower cholesterol
Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on cholesterol levels if individuals faithfully follow them. All of these suggestions are also important for anyone who has diabetes, so they serve a twofold purpose. They include:

  • Lose weight if overweight: the majority of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese
  • Engage in daily physical exercise: people with diabetes should exercise regularly
  • Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet: This combination of dietary components has been shown to reduce cholesterol, especially increasing the amount of fiber in the diet by adding items such as oatmeal, nuts, whole grains, lentils, raspberries, peas, and fresh vegetables.
  • Choose healthy fats: Examples include fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, mackerel), nuts, and olive oil.
  • Consider natural supplements: Numerous supplements have demonstrated some ability to lower cholesterol, including artichoke leaf extract, krill oil and fish oil, niacin, and red yeast rice.
  • Reduce alcohol. People who have high levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol increase their risk of stroke and heart disease when they drink alcohol.
  • Stop smoking. Individuals who stop smoking increase their levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and lower their levels of LDL cholesterol.

Young noted that diabetes patients who have high cholesterol need to work with their healthcare providers to "get the support they need to self-manage and enable them to live long and healthy lives."

American Diabetes Association
Diabetes UK

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