Most people have an understanding of cholesterol levels and know the importance of keeping it under control to prevent the risk of heart disease. However, when cholesterol is tested, a second test is usually measured for a fatty substance called triglycerides. When high levels of triglycerides circulate in the blood they also become a health and heart risk.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between meals. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you may have high triglycerides.
What’s considered normal?
A blood test can reveal whether your triglycerides fall into a healthy range.
- Normal – Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter
- Borderline high – 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High – 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high – 500 mg/dL or above
What’s the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol?
Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of fats that circulate in your blood. Triglycerides provide your body with energy, and cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones. Because triglycerides and cholesterol can’t dissolve in blood, they circulate throughout your body with the help of proteins that transport the lipids, called lipoproteins.
What’s the best way to lower triglycerides?
- Lose excess weight.
If you’re overweight, losing the excess pounds can help lower your triglycerides.
- Cut back on calories.
Remember that excess calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides.
- Avoid sugary and refined foods.
Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour, can cause a sudden increase in insulin production. This can increase triglycerides.
- Limit the cholesterol in your diet.
Avoid the most concentrated sources of cholesterol, including meats high in saturated fat, egg yolks and whole milk products.
- Choose healthier fats.
Trade saturated fat for healthier monounsaturated fat, found in olive, peanut and canola oils. Eat plenty of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as mackerel and salmon and limit or omit red meat.
- Eliminate trans fat.
Trans fat can be found in fried foods and many commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. You can tell that a food has trans fat in it if it contains partially hydrogenated oil.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages.
Alcohol is high in calories and sugar and has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglyceride levels.
- Exercise regularly.
Try to excercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week. Regular exercise can boost “good” cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides.
High triglycerides can lead to serious health problems, but making these lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your triglyceride levels and protect your overall health.