Raising HDL Cholesterol May Cut Heart Disease, Stroke Risk in Diabetes Patients
Raising HDL or “good” cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes may cut their risk of having a stroke or heart disease, a new study reveals.
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente reviewed the medical records of 30,067 type 2 diabetes patients who had their HDL cholesterol measured twice — six to 24 months apart — from 2001 to 2006. The researchers looked at whether the patients had subsequently been hospitalized for heart disease or stroke. They also compared the hospitalization risk for people whose HDL levels rose or fell between the two measurements with those whose HDL levels remained fairly stable.
Each 5-mg/dL rise in HDL cholesterol was associated with a 4 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization for heart disease and stroke. But a drop in HDL of at least 6.5 mg/dL was linked to an 11 percent greater risk of hospitalization.
This suggests "that the prevention of a HDL cholesterol decrease might be at least as important as increasing the HDL cholesterol level," the researchers wrote.
One limitation of the study, however, is that the researchers did not have information on exactly how patients raised their HDL, co-author Suma Vupputuri, PhD, an investigator for the Kaiser Permanente Health Research Center in Atlanta, told WebMD. Lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, losing weight and quitting smoking can raise HDL, but these are also known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. So it’s not known whether the increase in HDL contributed to fewer hospitalizations or whether patients took other steps (i.e. lifestyle changes) that resulted in fewer hospitalizations.
Additionally, the increased risk of hospitalization in patients whose HDL dropped could have been due to weight gain and not necessarily a decline in HDL, Vupputuri told WebMD. Still, "I think the general message, certainly, from our paper, is yes, raising HDL is going to improve your cardiovascular outcomes," and any lifestyle changes you adopt will have other health benefits as well, Vupputuri said.
This study was published in The American Journal of Cardiology