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Diabetes and Cholesterol

Lipids are fat-like substances found in the blood. Cholesterol and triglycerides are two types of lipids. The body needs some lipids to stay healthy, but elevated lipid levels can damage artery walls, causing atherosclerosis, or hardening of artery walls, which can cause heart attacks.

Below is a quick reference guide to the types of terms that you may have heard from your doctor when discussing cholesterol levels.

Cholesterol

According to Tracey Lucier, Nutrition Educator at the Joslin Diabetes Center, cholesterol is found only in animal foods, such as eggs, milk, cheese, liver, meat and chicken. "Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made in your liver and found in foods. Your total blood cholesterol level should be 200 mg/dL or lower," Lucier states. The body needs cholesterol to perform several functions including cell maintenance, and also metabolizes fat soluble vitamins, among many other activities.

LDL (so-called "bad cholesterol")

Having elevated LDL cholesterol levels for a significant period of time can damage arteries. When LDL is high, it causes the formation of "plaque" in the blood, damaging and block arteries.

--LDL readings should be less than 100; less than 70 if you have diabetes and heart disease

HDL (so-called "good cholesterol")

This type of cholesterol works to clear LDL cholesterol from the blood, keeping the arteries open. When HDL cholesterol is too low, fewer amounts of LDL cholesterol is removed from the blood, increasing the risk of damage to the arteries.

--HDL should be greater than 40 for women; greater than 50 for men

Triglycerides

High triglycerides prevent HDL from removing LDL from the blood. They also produce LDL that blocks arteries.

--Triglyceride levels should be less than 150

Page last updated: September 02, 2014