Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is found in your blood. Your liver naturally produces some cholesterol as it is used in a number of essential processes, such as the digestion of food. You also get additional cholesterol from the foods you eat.
There are two main types of cholesterol to remember:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is sometimes called the ‘bad’ or unhealthy cholesterol because if there is too much of it in your bloodstream, it can clog your arteries. Eating too many foods high in saturated fats can increase your LDL cholesterol.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is sometimes called the ‘good’ or healthy cholesterol and helps remove excess cholesterol, keeping your blood vessels healthy. To improve your HDL cholesterol choosing healthy fats can help. Healthy fats include polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are found in foods like olives, avocado, fish, nuts and seeds.
If you have too much saturated fats and not enough of the healthier fats in your diet, it can clog blood vessels which increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.
What should my cholesterol levels be?
People living with diabetes have an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke, so their cholesterol targets are lower than those without diabetes. These targets include:
- Total cholesterol levels less than 4.0 mmol/L.
- LDL cholesterol less than 2.0mmol/L
- Triglycerides less than 2.0mmol/L.
- HDL cholesterol higher than 1.0mmol/L, as this will help to protect the heart and blood vessels.
It is recommend you speak with your doctor about your results and targets.
When should I have my cholesterol checked?
Speak to your doctor about how often to get your cholesterol checked, the recommendation for people living with diabetes is at least once a year as part of your annual cycle of care. It is checked by a having a blood test.
What can I do to lower my cholesterol?
If you need to lower your cholesterol your doctor may recommend medication. You can also improve your cholesterol by losing weight (if necessary), following a healthy eating plan and by being more active.