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What are triglycerides?
A triglyceride is an energy storage molecule and biochemical name for fat. When food is digested it is broken down and converted to energy, which is either used by the body or stored. If there is more energy than the body needs, some of the remaining energy is converted into triglycerides for storage. Some triglycerides accumulate in the adipose (fat) cells, while the rest circulate through the bloodstream. Simply put, measured triglycerides are fat in the blood and are used to provide energy to the body.
High triglyceride levels have been linked to a greater chance for heart disease.
Current recommendations advise everyone have their lipids tested at least every 5 years. This screening measures both cholesterol (total, LDL, HDL) and triglycerides in the blood, and can be used to determine how our body is using and storing energy. Metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity, hypothyroidism, renal disorders, and other conditions or medications can cause abnormal lipid levels and often need to be addressed.
High triglycerides can cause damage to other organs in addition to the heart, and the cause of elevated lipids should be addressed. Triglycerides are increased by dietary fat and by foods high in sugars and starches.
Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides) is defined as having a fasting blood triglyceride level higher than 150 mg/dL. Borderline triglyceride levels are up to 199 mg/dL, over 200 mg/dL is considered high and increases your risk for cardiovascular events by 11 fold. Triglycerides over 300 mg/dL with low HDL increases your risk by 17 fold! Elevated triglycerides are often associated with other lipid abnormalities like high LDL or “Lousy Cholesterol”, and low HDL “Happy Cholesterol”.
How can I decrease high triglycerides?
- Reduce body weight
- Exercise – walking 3 to 4 miles in approx 40 minutes daily has been shown to normalize triglycerides within ONE WEEK.
- Low carbohydrate intake/ low sugar
- Low saturated and trans fat diets
- Increase leafy green vegetables and fiber
- High dose fish oil 2-4 grams per day and increased omega 3 foods such as salmon
- Decrease alcohol intake
- Stop smoking
- Control blood sugar/ correct insulin resistance
- Correct thyroid dysfunction
- Supplements and Medications when necessary (ask your doctor)
If you are concerned about your risk factors or have been diagnosed with abnormal lipid levels, contact your primary care provider or Dr. Schulz for ideas to lower your triglycerides and improve your cardiovascular health.