Raising good cholesterol may cut diabetics' risk of heart attacks

Individuals with type 2 diabetes are known to be at a significantly higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and experiencing a heart attack. However, new research suggests that simply raising levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol may dramatically cut these odds.

A team of researchers from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research analyzed the medical records of more than 30,000 patients being treated for type 2 diabetes over an eight-year period.

The results, which were published in the American Journal of Cardiology, showed that patients who boosted their HDL levels during this period were 8 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, compared to those whose cholesterol remained constant. Participants whose HDL levels dropped were 11 percent more likely to experience a cardiovascular event.

The findings show that a diabetic's risk of developing heart disease is largely within their own control. Many people with the condition come to believe that such complications are inevitable. However, it is possible to raise HDL levels through regular exercise and a healthy diet.

"This is promising news for patients with diabetes, who already have an increased risk for heart problems. Raising their good cholesterol may be one more way for these patients to reduce their risk," said Suma Vupputuri, PhD, who co-authored the study.

Other ways to increase HDL levels include avoiding tobacco use, keeping weight down and getting more of the B vitamin niacin.

Given the fact that individuals with type 2 diabetes are at an elevated risk of heart disease simply by virtue of their metabolic condition, they should take whatever steps they have available to boost their heart health. Eating right and exercising in order to improve HDL levels could be one of the most important things.