High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol, acts by carrying cholesterol out of the body. It does this by binding with cholesterol in the intestines so that it is excreted as waste. For this reason, having higher levels of HDL can mean a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
HDL also exerts its protective effects by:
- increasing blood vessel’s ability to expand, or stretch
- reducing the production of harmful chemicals which can damage blood vessels
- repairing existing damage to the walls of blood vessels
Research has shown that the protective effects of HDL are not as evident in people who have diabetes. Researchers compared 10 healthy people with 33 people who had diabetes and who were taking cholesterol-lowering medications and found that the protective benefits of HDL in the diabetic patients were not as effective.
Although this was a very small study, the research shows a possible reason why people with diabetes are also more prone to cardiovascular disease, besides that fact that diabetics often have lifestyle risk factors for heart disease.