Diabetes patients who increased their HDL cholesterol levels reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke. Similarly, decreased HDL levels led to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.
"Build up your "good" cholesterol levels."
This study adds to previous findings that increasing HDL levels may be a key method for lowering the risk of heart attack, says Gregory Nichols, Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon and lead author of the study.
While HDL cholesterol is known as the good cholesterol, LDL cholesterol is called the "bad" cholesterol.
"The "H" in HDL could stand for "happy"; the higher the number the better," explains Theresa Garnero, APRN, BC-ADM, MSN, CDE, author and illustrator of Your First Year with Diabetes and DIABETease, a lighter look at the serious subject of diabetes. "The "L" in LDL could stand for "lousy; you want less of that!"
It is already well-established that lowering levels of LDL cholesterol can reduce the risk of heart disease. Yet, there has been much less research on the link between HDL cholesterol and heart disease.
Patients with diabetes have a higher risk for heart problems. The findings from this study are promising news for these patients, remarks Suma Vupputuri, Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Atlanta and co-author of the study. She says that raising good cholesterol in people with diabetes could be one more way to protect these patients from heart problems.
For their study, the researchers measured the HDL levels of more than 30,000 diabetes patients. Each patients had their levels measured at least twice.
HDL levels did not change a great deal for the majority of the patients (61 percent). However, there were eight percent fewer heart attacks and strokes among the patients whose HDL levels increased (22 percent), compared to those whose levels stayed the same. On the other hand, patients whose levels decreased (17 percent) had 11 percent more heart attacks and strokes.
There are several ways to increase HDL levels without the use of drugs, including controlling weight, changing diet, not smoking, and increasing exercise. The American Diabetes Association suggests that women should have at least 50 mg/dl of HDL and that men should have at least 40 mg/dl. Still, it is thought that at least 60 mg/dl is needed to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Garnero - who did not participate in the study - adds, "Also, laughing raises HDL, so be sure to find the funny in everyday situations. It is good for your heart."
The results of the observational study by Dr. Nichols and colleagues - which was funded by Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, which makes the diabetes drug called Actos (pioglitazone) - is published in the American Journal of Cardiology.