What are triglycerides, anyway?
You've probably heard about triglycerides during a routine physical or when you've scanned the lipid or cholesterol sections of your blood work results. But what are triglycerides and why should you pay attention to them? Michael Miller, MD, cardiologist and the author of Heal Your Heart explains that triglyceride levels indicate the amount of fat in your bloodstream. "The average level for adult men and women after an overnight fast is 125 with optimal levels below 100," he says. "The borderline-high range is 150-199 and high levels are 200 and above." If your levels are creeping upward, be aware: Dr. Miller says that your risk of heart disease and death from cardiovascular disease increases when levels go above 100. The American Heart Association notes that higher levels, especially when you also have low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" type) or high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" type), are linked with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Read on to learn how to lower your triglycerides.
It's no secret that several health problems are associated with having a too-large waistline, high triglyceride levels among them. How to lower triglycerides? Be sure to ditch the junk foods and opt for healthier meal choices while also incorporating more exercise in your daily routine. According to the CDC, adults ages 18 to 64 should strive for 150 minutes of physical activity every week. This translates to 30 minutes of daily exercise for five days. Of course, that goal may vary depending on any other health goals or restrictions you may have. Consider these simple tips to start exercising when you're overweight.
Cut out simple carbs
Dr. Miller stresses the importance of making healthier meal and snack choices. He recommends you avoid a high triglycerides diet in favor of one that's low in saturated fats like safflower oil-based products, low in trans fats (avoiding processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated oils), and to limit simple carbs such as candy, cakes, and high fructose corn syrup. Add these best foods for you heart to your diet.
Limit your alcohol intake
While you may want to sip on a glass or two of wine after a long day, go easy. Too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your triglyceride levels while also contributing to high blood pressure, obesity, and an increased diabetes risk. The AHA recommends that men have no more than an average of one to two drinks per day while women keep it to one drink daily.
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Eat less sugar
If you notice you're reaching for chocolate bars and springing for larger sizes of your favorite flavored coffee, you're not doing your triglycerides any favors. Do your best to forgo adding extra sugar to food and drinks and avoid high-sugar foods. Foods to look out for, according to webmd.com, include soda, many breakfast cereals, ice cream, candy, and flavored yogurts. The site also encourages you to look out for sneaky sugars, particularly in the form of words that end in "ose." Think twice about the likes of sucrose, fructose, lactose, and dextrose, which are commonly found in many syrups, fruit juices, honey, and raw sugar. Here are the top foods cardiologists will never eat.
Eat these healthy fats
You already know that saturated and trans fats are not wise choices when trying to bring your triglyceride levels down. In particular, this means that you should limit cheese, crackers, processed foods, and chips and instead. Instead, opt for foods like walnuts, skinless chicken, olive oil, and avocados, which contain have naturally-occurring mono- and polyunsaturated fats that play a role in lowering your triglycerides. Read this to learn what avocados can do for your beauty routine.
Be honest about your medical history
When speaking to your doctor, make sure you're up front about your own medical history or any unusual symptoms you may have. Joel Kahn, MD, says this is important because it can help shed some light as to why you have less than ideal triglyceride levels. For example, he says that conditions such as prediabetes, diabetes, liver disease, and thyroid disease could also be responsible for your high triglycerides. Assessing these potential health concerns can better help you and your doctor come up with recommendations to help get those numbers down. Find out how to make the most of your doctor's appointment.
Ask your doctor about medication
Ask your doctor how to lower triglycerides. He or she may suggest medication. Fibrates may be wroth trying, according to the American Heart Association. (Some brand names in the United States include Lopid®, Antara®, and Lofibra®.) In the event your triglyceride levels are extremely high (over 500 mg/dL), then you could inquire about omega-3 fatty acid ethyl esters, which are medications that are fish-oil derived and chemically altered. As always, try to lower your levels naturally. If limiting alcohol and sugars, exercising, and being open about your health history don't seem to be doing the trick, it may be beneficial to consult with your doctor who may prescribe a triglyceride-lowering medication.
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