Feature Articles: Health
What are Triglycerides?
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD,
Health Education Specialist in
We hear people often talk about their blood cholesterol levels and most of us have a pretty good idea what foods we need to eat to decrease our cholesterol levels. Triglycerides are not spoken about as much as cholesterol but it is still important to know your numbers and take the correct steps in getting your triglycerides to within normal range if they are high.
Simply put, triglycerides are fat floating around in the blood. They are the most common type of fat in your body and the fat we use for energy when we need it. They are often checked by your physician at the same time your cholesterol is checked. The goal is to have your triglycerides be less than 150 mg/dl. You are considered to be at borderline high risk if your reading is 150-199 mg/dl. High risk is greater than 200 mg/dl.
Having high blood triglyceride levels is one of the risk factors that can put you at increased risk for metabolic syndrome according to the American Heart Association at americanheart.org. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of excess weight, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides. Having metabolic syndrome does increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Things that may increase your chances of having high triglycerides include: being overweight, low physical activity level, cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a very-high carbohydrate diet and some medications and some genetic disorders.
To get your triglyceride levels to within normal range, work to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, don’t smoke, and consume alcohol only in moderation if at all. It stands to reason that if triglycerides are fats floating around in the blood that you should decrease the fat in your diet. That, however, is not the case. The dietary change that you need to make is to decrease carbohydrates in the diet. The carbohydrates you need to work at decreasing first are the simple sugars like candy, sugar, honey and desserts. Continue to eat healthy carbohydrates, which include whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Omega 3 fatty acids may also help decrease triglycerides. Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009