Cholesterol? Don’t Forget the Triglycerides!

Photo by Rob Qld via Flickr

Photo by Rob Qld via Flickr

Darla felt good about her health when she went to her annual checkup. She had monitored her cholesterol and blood pressure for over a year and both were in desirable ranges.  So, she was surprised when her doctor told her that her triglyceride levels were high and had to be monitored also.

When Darla thought that cholesterol and blood pressure were the only things she needed to keep an eye on to manage her heart attack risk, she was wrong.  Heart health is about more than merely maintaining good cholesterol and blood pressure levels.  Having high triglyceride levels also increases your risk of a heart attack, stroke and heart disease.

What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of lipid that circulates in your blood, unable to dissolve.  Instead, they circulate through the body with the help of lipoproteins, possibly contributing to the hardening of the arteries.  They do serve a purpose, though.  Triglycerides play an important role in metabolism as energy sources and transporters of dietary fat.

How are they made?
Triglycerides are derived from the fat in the foods we eat or from other energy sources, like carbohydrates, which are converted later in in the body.  If you eat more calories than you need right away, the extra calories are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.  When your body needs energy between meals, hormones release triglycerides for energy use.  So, if you eat more calories than you burn, you are more likely to have high levels of triglycerides.

What can I do to lower triglycerides?
Changes in lifestyle are the key to fighting high triglycerides.  Luckily, the lifestyle changes needed are very similar to those used to lower cholesterol.

  1. If overweight, lose weight: Cut down on excess calories and work on reaching your ideal body weight.  After all, excess calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat.
  2. Eat a heart healthy diet: Reduce the saturated fat and cholesterol content of your diet and eliminate trans fats.  You need fat in your diet, but substitute monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats. Also, avoid sugary and refined products and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat dairy products.  Those have less calories and therefore should contribute fewer triglycerides.  And substitute fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines for meats high in saturated fats.  Omega-3 fatty acids reduce triglyceride levels.
  3. Limit or avoid alcoholic beverages: Alcohol has a potent effect on triglycerides.  Even small amounts of alcohol can significantly raise triglyceride levels.  So, watch how much you drink.
  4. Exercise on a regular basis: Not only does regular physical activity increase the good cholesterol while lowering the bad cholesterol, it also decreases triglyceride levels.  So, move at least 30 minutes a day at a moderate intensity, 5-7 days a week.

Of course, if you have high triglycerides, talk to your doctor about what the best course of action is for your specific situation.

The bottom line:
Cholesterol is not the only thing that needs to be monitored these days.  Keeping triglycerides at a desirable level is also key for heart health.  By leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping your weight at a desirable level, you can do a lot towards controlling both your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.  So, be proactive and lead a healthy lifestyle.  It can make all the difference!

Comments (4)

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  1. […] Cholesterol? Don’t Forget the Triglycerides! http://www.beinghealthy.tv/archives/cholesterol-2 – view page – cached Darla felt good about her health when she went to her annual checkup. She had monitored her cholesterol and blood pressure for over a year and both — From the page […]

  2. Maria Isabel says:

    Thanks for the reminder about lowering the triglycerides. I love sweets!!!

  3. Ramona Mayfield says:

    Enjoyed your pod cast. Informative and well written.

  4. Dr. Sunil Khosla says:

    the information proveded is of utmost importance and is an eye opener for good health

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