Triglycerides and Your Heart Health
You already know that keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers under control are important components of leading a heart-healthy lifestyle. Another key factor in protecting our heart health that you might not be aware of is maintaining healthy triglyceride levels.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat that can be found in your blood. Unused calories are converted into triglycerides by your body and are then stored in your fat cells. Triglycerides are vital for good health and help provide your body tissue with energy between meals. However, if you eat more calories than you burn, your triglyceride levels may be too high and health problems may occur.
Triglycerides and Your Health
Elevated triglyceride levels (hypertriglyceridemia) have been associated with hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls in certain people, which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. High triglycerides frequently occur in people with other health conditions linked to heart disease, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. The Mayo Clinic notes that high triglyceride levels may also be a symptom of poorly controlled diabetes, hypothyroidism, liver or kidney disease, and the use of certain medications.
How Can You Find Out Your Triglyceride Numbers?
Your family physician can determine your triglyceride level by performing a simple blood test. Listed below are the National Cholesterol Education Program’s guidelines for triglyceride levels*:
Normal - Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
Borderline high - 150 to 199 mg/dL
High - 200 to 499 mg/dL
Very high - 500 mg/dL or higher
*These are based on fasting plasma triglyceride levels.
What Steps Can You Take to Lower Your Triglyceride Levels?
There are several positive lifestyle changes that you can make that may help reduce your triglyceride levels and improve your overall health, as well.
Eating a balanced, heart-healthy diet by:
- Decreasing the amount of saturated fat in your diet.
- Limiting your cholesterol intake, especially in foods such as egg yolks, organ meats and whole milk products. Try to consume no more than 300mg of cholesterol a day.
- Limiting your consumption of alcohol or avoid it altogether.
- Paying special attention to your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. Learn more about how you can raise your good cholesterol.
- Participating in a regular exercise program to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Keeping any other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, under control through healthy lifestyle choices and medication as prescribed by your doctor.