High Lipids

Hyperlipidemia means high lipids or high fats in the blood. The liver makes these fats on its own. These fats also come from the foods we eat. Lipids travel in the blood and form plaque. The plaque sticks to the inner walls of the arteries. This causes the arteries to clog. Heart disease results from this plaque build-up. To help lower the risk of heart disease, people with diabetes need to control blood sugar levels and lower blood fat levels.

How often should you be tested and what are your goals? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests adults have a lipid profile at least once a year. If the results show levels in the low risk group, the lipid profile can be done every two years.*

The lipid profile consists of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol (LDL)
  • Triglycerides
  • HDL cholesterol (HDL)

The ADA has not set a goal for total cholesterol. For people with diabetes, the LDL (also known as "bad" cholesterol), should be below 100 mg/dL. A high LDL level may increase the risk for heart disease. Triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are the main form in which fat travels in the blood. The goal for HDL (also known as "good" cholesterol), should be greater than 50 mg/dL in women and greater than 40 mg/dL in men. HDL may help the body get rid of plaque.*

How can you improve blood fat levels? A medicine called a "statin", plus diet and exercise are the first treatments to lower high blood fats in diabetes patients. Your body makes LDL ("bad" cholesterol) from two types of fats in the diet. Saturated fats include fatty meats, whole milk dairy products (whole milk, butter, cream, sour cream, cheese or ice cream) and coconut or palm oil. The other fat is trans fats. They are in many fried foods, baked goods (cookies and crackers) and stick margarine. To lower your LDL cut down on foods high in saturated and trans fats. Choose lean meats, fish and poultry. Try low fat or fat-free dairy products. Cook with monounsaturated fats. These include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil.

The first step to lower triglycerides is to control blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are high, the sugar goes to the liver. Then, the liver uses sugar to make triglycerides. If needed, lose weight, increase exercise, limit carbohydrate intake and lower your fat intake. These can help lower your triglycerides. Too much alcohol can raise triglycerides. It may help to avoid or limit alcohol intakeHDL ("good" cholesterol) levels may be harder to increase at first. If needed, lose weight, stop smoking and exercise more often. This can help. In many cases, though, medicines are needed.

Important steps to take

  • Speak to your doctor about having your lipid profile checked. Keep a record of your results. You can track your progress.
  • Meet with a dietitian to learn how to lower your fat intake. Check with your doctor to see if you need a referral to a dietitia
  • Speak with your doctor about starting an exercise program.
  • If taking medicines to lower blood fats, take it as ordered. Let your doctor know if you are having any side effects.

How can your doctor help? Your doctor can order a lipid profile as needed. Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian to help you make the needed changes in your meal plan. If needed, your doctor will order medicines. If your doctor decides to put you on medicines, your levels should be checked every 4-6 weeks until your goals are met.

*American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care Volume 37, Supplement 1, January 2014 S38