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Lower Triglycerides With A Healthy Diet

Updated on September 30, 2011

While the evil specter of high cholesterol is busy grabbing headlines, triglycerides quietly claim thousands of unsuspecting victims each year. In recent years, science has determined that high triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke by as much as 60%, even if your cholesterol level is normal.

What Are Triglycerides, And Am I At Risk?

Triglycerides are a type of fat. In fact, they are the most common type of fat in your body. They are what your body uses for energy. If you eat more calories than you can burn, triglycerides are also what your body stores as fat. Together with hdl and ldl cholesterol they make up the total lipid (fat) count in your blood.

If you suffer from diabetes (especially type 2), obesity, kidney disease, or drink a lot of alcohol, you may be at risk. High or out of ratio cholesterol levels also are major risk factors. There are some very important steps you can take to lower triglycerides, but first you need to know your number.

Getting Tested

Your doctor will test both your cholesterol and triglycerides with a routine blood test. If your triglycerides are below 150 mg/dl, you're good to go. Of course you'll want to keep it that way with a healthy diet and exercise.

Can My Diet Lower Triglycerides?

If your number is above 150 mg/dl, then you have some work to do. In learning how to lower triglycerides, the first place to look for answers is your diet. Putting a strict limit on simple carbohydrates (especially sugar) is the quickest way to start lowering triglycerides. One third of a triglyceride molecule is sugar, so by avoiding or limiting sugar, you effectively break the chain.

You can also cut down on simple carbs by switching to whole grain or, even better, multi grain breads. You should also cut out alcohol, limit processed foods and avoid sweetened breakfast cereals.

Watch The Fat

A healthy diet to lower triglycerides should also be low in fat. If you don't limit saturated and trans fats, you run the risk of undoing all of your hard work by losing track of your cholesterol.

Instead of eating foods that are high in saturated and trans fats, opt for the healthier unsaturated fats. Olive oil, in particular, has actually been shown to assist in lowering lipid levels and improving heart health.

 If you add fatty fish like salmon to your menu, your heart will benefit from the omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association also recommends a daily supplement of omega-3 fatty acid for patients who need to lower triglyceride levels. This one measure can also lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol and, over time, reduce your risk of death from sudden heart attack by as much as 44%.

Quit Smoking

Smoking won't cause high triglycerides, but nicotine is a vasoconstrictor. It narrows the blood vessels, making it much more difficult for lipid laden blood to move through your body. As your blood vessels narrow, you blood pressure also rises, adding insult to injury. If you have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides, you should definitely quit smoking for good.

Take It Slow

Remember, this is not a race. The single largest contributor to high triglycerides is overeating. Using common sense in reducing your caloric intake, paying special attention to carbohydrates, is a good start. Regular exercise will compound your results. See your doctor periodically, to monitor your progress and don't give up.


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