Healthy Trigylcerides: The organic benefits & why do they matter

Triglycerides are a very important measure of your health. Here is why triglycerides matter- and what steps you can take if your triglycerides are too high.

If you have been keeping an eye on your high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, there is something else that you need to monitor: your triglyceride level. If you have a high triglyceride level, a type of fat (lipid) in your blood, you will increase your risk for serious heart disease. Some of the same lifestyle choices that promote overall health can help lower your triglyceride levels.

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts all calories that it does not need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in your fat cells of your body. Later, hormones release triglycerides for energy between your food meals when you eat. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn with exercise, particularly “easy” calories like carbohydrates and fats, you may have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia).

What are normal blood levels of Triglycerides?

A simple blood test will reveal whether your triglycerides fall into a healthy range or not. Here are the normal levels:

  • Normal: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
  • Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dl (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
  • High: 200-499 mg/dl (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L)
  • Very High: 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above)

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that a triglyceride level of 100 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L) or lower is considered optimal. The AHA says that this level would improve your heart health considerably. The AHA does not recommend drug treatment to reach this level. For people who need to lower this level, the AHA recommends first trying simple lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss and mild physical activities. Research has proven that triglyceride levels do respond to these than to chemical man-made drugs. Yes, the drugs work, but come with unwanted side effects.

Your doctor will usually check for high triglycerides as part of a cholesterol test. This test is also called a lipid panel or lipid profile depending on where you are and what doctor you are seeing. Your doctor will ask you to fast (no food or water) for nine to twelve hours before blood can be drawn for an accurate triglyceride measurement. So you need to plan for this test in advance. It is critical that you have this test done at least once a year after 40 years old as part of your general health screening.

Differences between Triglycerides and Cholesterol

Triglycerides and Cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood stream. Triglycerides will store unused calories and give your body energy..and cholesterol is used to build cells and other certain hormones. Because triglycerides and hormones can not dissolve in your blood, they will circulate throughout your body with the help of proteins that transport the lipids (those are called lipoproteins).

Why do Triglycerides matter?

Although it is unclear how high triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (which is called atherosclerosis) – which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

High triglycerides are often a sign of other conditions that may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke as well, increasing obesity and metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high triglycerides high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Sometimes high triglycerides are a sign of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), liver or kidney disease or rare genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy. High triglycerides could also be a side effect of taking prescription medications such as beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics, steroids or the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

Suggestions to lower Triglycerides

Healthy lifestyle changes are the first line of defense but here are a few tips:

  1. Lose weight. If you are overweight, losing 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your triglycerides. Motivate yourself by focusing on the benefits such as more energy and improved health.
  2. Cut back on calories. Remember that extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides significantly.
  3. Avoid sugary and refined foods. Simple carbohydrates, such as such as sugar and foods made with white flour can increase triglycerides.
  4. Limit the cholesterol in your diet. Aim for no more than 300 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol per day – or less than 200 mg if you have heart disease. Avoid the most concentrated sources of cholesterol, including meats high in saturated fat, egg yolks and whole milk products.
  5. Choose healthier fats. Trade saturated fats found in meats for healthier monosaturated  fat found in plants, such as olive, peanut and canola oils. Try and substitute fish high in omega-3 fatty acids – such as mackerel and salmon – for red meat products.
  6. Eliminate trans fat products. Trans fat can be found in some fried foods and commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. Do not rely on product packages that label their products as being free of trans fat. In the US, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat serving, it may be labeled trans fat-free. Even though those amounts seem to be small, they can add up quickly if you eat a lot of foods containing small amounts of trans fat. Instead, learn how to read the ingredients list on the foods that you buy from the store. You can tell is a product has trans fat in it if it contains partially hydrogenated oil. That is a code word for trans fat.

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