Do you know how to manage your triglyceride levels? These fatty types of lipids found in your blood can be dangerous for your health. Similar to LDL (the bad form of cholesterol), high levels of triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, even when LDL levels are regulated.
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“We are increasingly recognizing that elevated triglycerides represent a major issue and should not be ignored,” says cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD.
Is it possible to lower triglycerides naturally?
Similar to cholesterol, triglycerides come from the food we eat and our liver. When levels are normal, triglycerides are used for energy. The problems arise when levels are high, explains Dr. Nissen. When we make more triglycerides than we use, the rest are stored as fat. That’s why many people who are overweight or have type 2 diabetes have high levels.
“Poor diabetes control is a major factor in causing high triglyceride levels,” Dr. Nissen says. He stresses the importance of watching your carbohydrate consumption. “Eating a low-carb diet and getting plenty of exercise are often effective in lowering triglyceride levels.”
Cut back on sugar and refined carbs
Different carbohydrate-loaded foods also contain very different nutritional levels.
Dr. Nissen recommends scaling back or eliminating:
- Refined grains.
- White rice.
- Starchy vegetables (like white potatoes).
“It’s particularly important to reduce the consumption of sugar and foods with high-fructose corn syrup,” he says.
Stick to whole carbs and fiber
Foods that contain good carbs and plenty of fiber include:
- Apples (with skin).
- Sweet potatoes.
- Whole grains.
- Brown rice.
Dr. Nissen advises that increasing your fiber intake may lower triglyceride levels. “If you have high triglyceride levels, there’s a good chance you don’t ingest close to the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day,” he says.
High triglyceride levels can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption as well. So if your levels are higher than normal, it might be a good idea to eliminate alcohol completely.
“Weight has a profound impact on triglycerides,” says Dr. Nissen. “If you lose as little as 5% to 10% of your body weight, your triglycerides can drop as much as 20%.”
Why lowering high triglyceride levels matters
The national guidelines for fasting triglyceride levels in healthy adults are:
- Normal: Under 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).
- Borderline High: 151–200 mg/dl.
- High: 201–499 mg/dl.
- Very High: 500 mg/dl or higher.
When your triglyceride levels are high and you have a high amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol or a low amount of HDL (good) cholesterol, all of this could contribute to the development of fatty buildups within the artery walls of the heart. The buildup can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
How your healthcare provider can help
Your healthcare provider can help you get your triglyceride levels under control by ruling out possible causes like medications, thyroid issues, unmanaged diabetes and liver or kidney disease. They can then formulate an effective management plan with you. This might include medication and lifestyle changes like losing weight and eating smaller portions.
As mentioned before, a healthy, fiber-rich diet can help in the matter. Exercising regularly can also play a huge part in managing triglyceride levels. By cleaning up your existing routine, you could see changes in your triglyceride levels within a few months.
This article was adapted from Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.