You try to live a fit and healthy lifestyle. You have come to understand the types of foods and activities that keep you feeling good. You now read the nutritional facts on food packaging labels, choose organic instead of processed, steer clear of saturated fats, trans fats, and can differentiate between good and bad cholesterol levels. You take care of yourself and stay up-to-date with your annual doctor’s check-up. However, during this last visit, your blood work came back with high triglyceride levels. You think to yourself: What are triglycerides, and why are they high?
Triglycerides are fats that provide an important source of energy to your body, but at high levels, they can hurt your heart. A lipid profile or lipid panel is a panel of blood tests that serves as an initial broad medical screening tool for abnormalities in lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides. A lipid panel will also obtain information for HDL (high-density lipoprotein), which is the good cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the bad cholesterol.
Typical triglyceride measurements are:
- Normal – Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline – 150-199 mg/dL
- High – 200-499 mg/dL
- Very High – 500mg/dL and up
1. Take notice of what you are consuming
It’s difficult to balance a life that’s moving fast. Career, family, and stress can lead you to unnecessary snacking and unhealthy meals, but if there is no time to prepare a salad, then what other options are there, aside from fast-food? If you have high triglycerides, then it is absolutely vital you get your sweet tooth in check. Simple sugars, especially fructose (a sugar often found in fruit), increase triglyceride levels, along with foods made with added sugars, including soda, baked goodies, candy, ice cream, most breakfast cereals, and flavored yogurt. It is best to avoid these food, or at the very least consume them in moderation.
2. Eat the right kinds of fat
Being aware of calories is great, but also taking note of the types of fat you are consuming is just as important. Steer clear of trans fat, which is found in many processed foods, such as fries, chips, and margarine. The intake of saturated fats, like those found in red meats, cheeses, ice cream, and baked goods should be limited. A little fat is good for you — when it’s the healthy kind. Choose foods that naturally contain monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, like avocados, walnuts, and skinless chicken. Replace regular cooking oils with canola oil or extra virgin olive oil.
3. Eat more nuts, greens, and fish
Switch from a snack of chips and crackers to raw almonds and walnuts. Nuts are packed with protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart, and provide stamina throughout the day. More importantly, Omega-3 may also help lower your triglycerides. Try to eat fish at least twice a week. Wild salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and sardines are all high in Omega-3s. Additionally, other good sources of fatty acids can be found in salad greens, such as spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts. Incorporating at least two servings of salad greens per day to your daily diet will power up your meals with vitamins and proteins.
4. Cut back on alcohol consumption and sugary drinks
Excessive consumption of alcohol and drinks high in sugar can lead to high triglycerides. Sodas and other sweetened drinks are compounded with fructose syrup — a turbo booster for high triglycerides. An occasional glass of red wine or a beer is fine, but one of the best ways to lower your triglycerides is to cut out alcoholic and sweetened drinks all together. There are other alternatives such adding club soda or sparkling water to natural fruit juices to liven up any drink and serve as a healthier alternative to sweetened drinks. It is okay to indulge every once in a while, just remember to sip slowly, enjoy the drink, and try not to overdo it.
5. Lose weight
Although challenging, losing weight is attainable and is certainly the most important factor in lowering triglyceride levels. Extra weight buildup, particularly around your waist, raises triglycerides. The most effective way to lower triglycerides is to shed some of those extra inches by maintaining a regular workout regimen for 30 minutes a day and 5 days per week. Losing a mere 7 – 15 pounds will dramatically lower your triglyceride levels. Build up a sweat and keep your heart pumping with dance classes (like Zumba), swimming, or walking.
Lifestyle changes may be in order, when attempting to lower your triglycerides, which is why it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor. Be detailed, and be honest regarding any symptoms you have been experiencing. Explain if you have been exercising or eating right. Doctors will provide feedback and recommendations to keep you healthy. Your doctor may also prescribe medication or request an annual lipid panel to be done to monitor blood fats (triglycerides and all other types of cholesterol) in an effort to protect your heart.
Know what is good for you, but know what is better for you. Avoid that creamy latte, grilled cheese sandwich, or scoop of ice cream before bed. Get moving and work out. Remember, if you often eat more calories than you burn – like many of us do – your triglycerides may start to build up. Now that you understand the lowdown on triglycerides, hopefully the recommendations provided will help you maintain a happy and healthy way of life.The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.