Healthy snacks and meals can help you stay trim and control diabetes, improving your HDL-cholesterol levels and protection from heart disease.

Bump up the HDL-cholesterol

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The numbers are a bit staggering, but cardiovascular disease causes 17 million deaths each year around the world. That's one-third of the global deaths.

There are multiple factors connected to cardiovascular disease: diet, genetics, smoking, lack of exercise, stress and blood fat levels such as cholesterol.

A large study of 25,000 adults has made interesting discoveries about HDL – or good – cholesterol. HDL cholesterol functions to collect the harmful, artery-clogging cholesterol to remove it to the liver for excretion from the body through bile. Less LDL-cholesterol means less fatty plaque build-up in artery walls, reducing cardiovascular disease risk.

Researchers have found that all HDL-cholesterol is not created equal. There are differences, and thus different protection from heart disease. HDL-cholesterol varies in size and capacity to bind fat so there is a difference in its ability to remove cholesterol from the body. It is measured as the HDL-cholesterol efflux capacity.

The results from this study? The higher the HDL-cholesterol efflux capacity, the better the heart disease protection. In fact, those with the highest efflux capacity had 36 percent fewer heart attacks.

There were interesting side discoveries in this study. People with a leaner weight, as well as those who did not have diabetes, seemed to have better HDL-cholesterol efflux capacity. 

This is a good reminder to make healthy food choices in reasonable amounts and include daily walks or activity for lifetime weight management. Be sure to assess your blood glucose levels at least yearly. If you are going to develop diabetes, you want to catch things at the very beginning in the pre-diabetes stage so that you can work to get those numbers back to normal and delay diabetes for as long as possible. In the long run, this may help reduce your risk for heart disease by increasing levels of the most protective type of HDL-cholesterol.

Healthy snacks and meals to stay trim and control diabetes:


About the Author

Rita Smith is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's been working in the field of nutrition and disease prevention for more than 35 years and currently works at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. Each week, Rita provides nutrition counseling to clients who have a variety of disorders or diseases including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroparesis and weight management. For these clients, food choices can help them manage their health problems.