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How does cholesterol affect type 2 diabetes?

You may be surprised to learn that if you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor may recommend that you lower your cholesterol even if it is already within “normal” range.

This is because what would be considered normal levels for cholesterol in a non-diabetic person can actually be life-threatening for people with type 2 diabetes.

There are two main types of cholesterol that doctors look at: high-density lipoproteins (HDL or “good” cholesterol) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL or “bad” cholesterol). While high HDL cholesterol levels are good, the same is not true about LDL.

Having high LDL cholesterol can increase your risk for stroke and other health issues. If you have type 2 diabetes, these risks increase even more.

In addition to recommending diet and exercise, doctors may also recommend medicine to lower triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood) or lipid-lowering drugs, such as:

  • Statins like Lipitor. These drugs help lower your LDL and increase your HDL, decreasing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular complications.
  • Niacin. Doctors may prescribe high doses of niacin (a type of vitamin) together with statins in order to further lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol.
  • Bile sequestrants. Also called “bile acid sequestrants,” these drugs help prevent your body from absorbing cholesterol in your intestines.

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