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Cholesterol basics

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your blood. Your body makes some cholesterol to help it function properly.

You may also get cholesterol from some of the foods you eat and you may inherit a tendency toward high cholesterol.

When your blood cholesterol level is too high, the cholesterol builds up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this can:

  • block the flow of blood to your heart, depriving it of oxygen (A partial blockage may result in chest pain. A total blockage will cause a heart attack.)
  • block the flow of blood to your brain, depriving it of oxygen. (A total blockage will cause a stroke.)

Cholesterol goals

The American Diabetes Association recommends:

  • LDL — less than 100
  • HDL (sometimes called "good" cholesterol because it helps reduce LDL cholesterol) — 40 or higher for men and 50 or higher for women
  • triglycerides (the form in which energy is stored in your fat cells) — less than 150
  • total cholesterol — less than 200.

People who have prediabetes should use the same blood cholesterol goals as people who have diabetes.

What can help control cholesterol?

You can help control your cholesterol level in the following ways:

  • Eat a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. This can lower your LDL level and raise your HDL level.
  • Exercise regularly for 30 minutes or more. This can also lower your LDL level and raise your HDL level.
  • Take any medicine to lower your cholesterol as prescribed. Changes in diet and exercise are often not enough to reach your cholesterol goals.

Low dose aspirin

Research shows that taking a low dose of aspirin every day can reduce your risk of heart disease.

Aspirin helps prevent blood clots that can block the flow of blood and lead to heart attack or stroke.

But taking aspirin is not safe for everyone, so it is important to talk with your health care provider before you start taking aspirin every day.


 

Source: Allina Patient Education, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ahc-94403

First published: 04/02/2009
Last updated: 04/02/2009

Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts