Beware Triglycerides, the "Forgotten Fat"-- and Easy Ways to Lower Your Risk
Last updated: Jul 10, 2009
If you're like most of us, you watch your blood pressure and cholesterol, wait for your doctor to say there's a problem, and leave it at that. But lately experts have been trying to wake us up to the fact that there's another piece of information on our lab reports that we need to pay attention to, and that's triglyceride levels. Many doctors don't do a great job of explaining why high triglyceride levels are dangerous, though, or what to do about them.
Triglycerides (TG) are a specific type of fat, or lipid, and recent studies have shown high TG levels are a risk factor for developing heart disease. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as cutting fat out of your diet. Yes, triglycerides actually come from foods fried in oil, from fast food, and from carbohydrates, particularly from those cookies, cakes, and baked goods you buy from the grocery store. But they're also produced by the body. Calories eaten from carbohydrates but not immediately used by tissues in the body are changed to triglycerides and stored in fat cells for future use, so those who eat a lot of carbs may have high triglycerides even if they don't eat a diet high in animal fat.
Check Your Triglyceride Levels
A normal TG level is under 150 mg/dl; when TG levels go up to 200 or higher, your risk of heart disease doubles. Even more worrying, high TG levels tend to be found in people who also have low levels of HDL, the good cholesterol. So that can be a double-whammy.
How to Lower Your Triglycerides
Here's what experts say you can do to get those pesky TG levels down:
"¢ [Lose weight] (https://www.caring.com/eating-healthy)
"¢ Stop smoking
"¢ Avoid too much sugar
"¢ Avoid carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and white rice
"¢ Eat a diet high in fiber and whole grains
"¢ Avoid alcohol
The good news is that there are a couple of serious shortcuts you can take. Studies show that increasing your level of exercise to 30 minutes a day or more burns off triglycerides very efficiently. And adding fish and fish oil to your diet is another efficient way of lowering TG levels. Of course, you still need to take the more difficult measures listed above. But take these two relatively easy steps, and you're well on your way.