Patients’ Guide to Treating High Cholesterol and Diabetes

Diabetes and Cardiovascular Risk

How Does Diabetes Affect Your Heart Health?

As you’re most likely aware, if you don’t take good care of your type 2 diabetes, you can develop several complications, including heart disease.  We don’t say that to frighten you or to make you focus on the negative aspects of type 2 diabetes:  it’s simply that cardiovascular complications are possible when you have diabetes, but there are ways that you can work to prevent them.

Cholesterol plays a big part in cardiovascular disease, so when you have diabetes, you need to be particularly vigilant about your cholesterol numbers.  Taking good care of your heart is part of taking good care of your diabetes.

Cardiovascular Complications with Diabetes
Cardiovascular complications are possible long-term macrovascular complications of diabetes, and these complications include heart attacks and strokes.

Routinely high blood glucose levels can cause damage to your blood vessels.  Therefore, if you don’t have good control of your blood glucose levels on a daily basis—if you regularly swing high and low—then you could be creating long-lasting heart problems.

Again, that’s not said to frighten you—but to help you realize the important of monitoring your blood glucose levels and working hard to keep them in your goal ranges.  Talk to your doctor about your goal ranges and how you can improve your blood glucose levels on a daily basis.

Where Does Cholesterol Come Into Play in Cardiovascular Disease?
Having high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol—if you’re not sure what that is, please review our cholesterol basics article) in your blood can lead to artherosclerosis.  That’s a condition when plaque builds up in your artery walls, which essentially narrows them and makes it more difficult for blood to flow through.

LDL cholesterol forms plaque, so it stands to reason that the more LDL cholesterol you have in your blood, the more plaque you’re likely to create.

Eventually, if enough plaque builds up, it can cause a blood clot, leading to a heart attack or a stroke.

Controlling Cholesterol and Blood Glucose Levels for Heart Health
When you have type 2 diabetes and you have high cholesterol, it’s like you have a double-whammy of cardiovascular risk.  Poorly controlled blood glucose levels can harm your heart health, as can hyperlipidemia. 

If you have type 2 diabetes, you need to be especially attentive to 2 kinds of numbers:  your blood glucose numbers (and related to that, your A1c numbers) and your cholesterol numbers.  Keeping both numbers under control will help reduce your cardiovascular risk.