Lowering your cholesterol

Published 22 June, 2016

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a type of fat (sometimes called lipid) found in the blood and all of the body’s cells. It plays a vital role in maintaining good cell function, but we know that too much of it can increase the risk of heart and circulation diseases (such as heart attacks and strokes).

How much is too much cholesterol?

Having type 2 diabetes increases the risk of heart disease. Therefore, your cholesterol targets are lower than if you didn’t have diabetes. You should be asked by your diabetes health care professional to have a blood test at least once a year which will measure your cholesterol levels.  Ensure you ask what your results are so that you can keep track of your progress

Total cholesterolUnder 5mmol/l
The total of which is bad cholesterol (LDL)Under 3mmol/l
The total of which is good cholesterol (HDL)At least 1.0mmol/l (men) and 1.2mmol/l (women)
Triglycerides (another type of fat in the blood)1.7mmol/l or lower

Where does cholesterol come from?

Most cholesterol is made by our body, but some is converted by the liver from the saturated fat that we eat.  Making changes to our diet and lifestyle can help to reduce cholesterol levels by up to 10%.

Top tips to help lower your cholesterol

1. Work towards achieving a healthy weight and waist circumference
Being overweight and particularly having more weight around your middle increases your risk of heart disease. It also increases insulin resistance, one of the causes of type 2 diabetes.  As well as monitoring your weight, consider measuring your waist circumference too.

2. Reduce total fat intake and replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats
Think ‘FAT’! Reduce the Frequency you have foods high in fat, reduce the Amount you have and try to change the Type of fat by replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats.

3. Have [at least] 5-a-day
Fruit, vegetables and all types of pulses and beans contain a range of vitamins, minerals and important fibres. Fibre helps to reduce total and bad (LDL) cholesterol by reducing the amount that is absorbed into the blood.

4. Increase activity
Physical activity can increase the good (HDL) cholesterol in your blood. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. Ideally 5 days of 30 mins, although breaking these down into 10 minutes bouts is still beneficial. You may want to consult your diabetes healthcare professional before starting an activity regime if you have high blood pressure.

5. Stop smoking
Smoking damages the walls of the blood vessels causing them to narrow and blood pressure to rise. If you are considering stopping smoking please speak to your diabetes healthcare professional or a pharmacist about the range of methods there are to help.