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Reverse Hardening of the Arteries

Alan Marcus MD, an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist, is extremely active in the diabetes community. He serves on many advisory boards and speaks frequently to groups of all sizes. His practice is in Laguna Hills, CA, and he serves as Asst. Clinical Prof. at USC.

In this month’s column, Dr. Marcus suggests optimum levels for your LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad cholesterol”) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”).

If your LDL cholesterol is greater than 130, you’re making cholesterol, which is clogging your arteries. This is “arteriosclerosis.” If your LDL is between 80 and 130, your blood vessels are stable. If it’s less than 80, you’re reversing any hardening of the arteries.

Once you have established hardening of the arteries, you can reverse it if you lower the LDL to less than 80. If you do primary intervention before someone has a heart attack, you’ll cut down their risk of having a heart attack basically by 2% for every one point you lower that LDL.

Eighty percent of people with diabetes do not have high enough HDLs. When your HDL is greater than 40, you have somewhat of a benefit. You’re able to clear away some of the bad cholesterol-obviously not enough if your LDL is 180, because these two are balancing each other. If your HDL is less than 40, you have no benefit. Unfortunately, people with type 2 diabetes suppress the breakdown of LDL and the formation of HDL as a result of inappropriate high insulin production.

(Editors Note: If any tips in this series have brought up questions for you about your own diabetes care, we strongly encourage you to meet with a qualified professional to go over your questions and test results.)

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