Why do cholesterol levels matter for diabetes and prediabetes? How to improve cholesterol levels?

If you are living with prediabetes or diabetes, your doctor may ask you to complete a cholesterol blood test (lipid profile/panel blood test) on an annual basis. This helps to screen for and monitor dyslipidemia.


Dyslipidemia refers to abnormal levels of blood lipids (fats) - which includes cholesterol and triglycerides.


How to improve cholesterol | Beyond Diabetes Nutrition - Lucy Zhang, Registered Dietitian

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Why do cholesterol levels matter for diabetes and prediabetes?


Living with prediabetes and diabetes is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (heart disease). Healthy blood lipid levels are one way to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.




What do the cholesterol (lipid panel) labs mean?

Here’s a breakdown of what those lipid lab values are:


LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol

  • The bad cholesterol, think "L for lousy"

  • LDL cholesterol contributes to fatty build up in your arteries that cause them to narrow over time. This can increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

  • Goal: Lower LDL levels to lower risk of heart disease and stroke


HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) Cholesterol

  • The good cholesterol, think "H for healthy"

  • HDL helps to move LDL cholesterol away from the arteries to your liver, where the LDL can be broken down and removed from the body

  • Goal: Increase HDL levels to lower risk of heart disease and stroke


Triglycerides (TG)

  • Triglycerides are a type of fat used to store excess energy from the foods you eat

  • High triglyceride levels are also linked to fatty buildup within the artery walls

  • Goal: Lower triglyceride levels → lower risk of heart disease and stroke


Your doctor will review your test results along with your risk factors and medical history to help determine the best treatment options for you.


It’s a good idea to monitor your own lab results so you know which way your labs trend - e.g. Are LDL levels increasing or decreasing over time?




How to improve cholesterol levels?


Lifestyle factors can be helpful (along with medications when appropriate) to support healthier lipid levels. Here are 3 changes you can make in your day to day life to support healthier cholesterol levels:


Eat more soluble fibre

Eating more soluble fibre can help to lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol. As a bonus, soluble fibre can also be helpful for supporting blood sugar management and healthy gut bacteria! Examples of foods high in soluble fibre include:

  • Oats

  • Beans and lentils

  • Pears and apples

  • Ground flaxseed - be sure to choose the ground version to access the soluble fibre within the seed

  • Chia seeds

  • Psyllium husk or powder


How to improve cholesterol - Eat more soluble fibre | Beyond Diabetes Nutrition - Lucy Zhang, Registered Dietitian


Choose foods lower in saturated and trans fat

Saturated and trans fats can increase LDL (bad) cholesterol. In general, oils and fats that are liquid at room temperature (e.g. olive oil, vegetable oil) are lower in saturated fat compared to those that are solid (e.g. butter, shortening, coconut oil)


Use the % Daily Value (% DV) on nutrition labels to guide your choices, remember: 5% or less is a little, 15% or more is a lot.


How to improve cholesterol - Choose foods lower in saturated and trans fat | Beyond Diabetes Nutrition - Lucy Zhang, Registered Dietitian


Incorporate more physical activity:

Increasing physical activity can help to lower your triglycerides while increasing your healthy HDL levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most day of the week. Brisk walking is a great way to take advantage of the warmer temperatures!


How to improve cholesterol - Incorporate more physical activity | Beyond Diabetes Nutrition - Lucy Zhang, Registered Dietitian



Interested in more info about improving your cholesterol? Comment below with your questions!



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