What Are Triglycerides?

by OneGoodFoodBlog
What Are Triglycerides?

Like HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood, and the most common form of body fat. They are produced and stored in fat cells after the body takes in extra calories. When your body needs energy, hormones convert these triglycerides into usable calories, according to the American Heart Association.

If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you are more likely to have high triglyceride levels. Having high triglycerides can raise your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

You can find out what your triglyceride levels are by asking your healthcare provider for a lipid panel, a type of simple blood test that measures both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

Triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. A lipid panel also includes a total cholesterol count.

Your doctor may ask you to fast prior to having your blood drawn for the lipid panel.

The following numbers indicate the range of triglyceride levels for adults, according to the Mayo Clinic:

Normal: less than 150 mg/dL

Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL

High: 200 to 499 mg/dL

Very high: 500 mg/dL and above

Eating more calories than you burn consistently can raise your triglyceride levels above normal levels.

Foods particularly rich in saturated fat or highly processed carbohydrates can contribute to abnormal triglyceride levels. Consuming these calorie-rich, easy-to-break-down foods results in more easily released energy, which is then converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.

High triglycerides are also a symptom of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.

Typically, adopting healthy lifestyle choicescan help you keep your triglyceride levels in check.

Limiting Sweets and Other Highly Processed Simple Carbohydrates Eating foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, like white flour and white rice, can raise your triglycerides.

Swapping Foods Rich in Saturated Fat for Vegetable Oil and Omega-3 Rich Foods Saturated fats, which are found in most animal and dairy products, can raise triglyceride levels. Instead, cooking with vegetable oils like olive oil and canola oil can help manage both high triglyceride and high cholesterol.

Limiting consumption of beef and pork and eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, canned sardines, and mackerel can also help manage high triglyceride.

Limiting or Stop Drinking Alcohol High in both calories and sugar, drinking alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels, along with many other negative health effects.

Keeping Your Weight in a Healthy Range If you have high triglycerides, even a small amount weight loss (in the 5 to 10 pound range) can lower your levels.

Medications That Lower Triglycerides

Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone may not change your triglyceride levels. If that’s the case, your doctor will prescribe a medication to help lower triglycerides, such as:

Fish Oil In large doses, omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglyceride levels. The most common supplement is OTC fish oil, but they are also available by prescription.

Fibrates These medications reduce overall triglyceride levels by reducing the liver’s production of very-low-density lipoproteins, which are made up mostly of triglycerides. They include Lopid (gemfibrozil) and TriCor (fenofibrate).

Niacin Also known as nicotinic acid, niacin is a B vitamin that can raise HDL cholesterol while lowering levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.

Your doctor may prescribe niacin if your triglyceride levels are higher than 500 mg/dL.

Since niacin can interact with other medications and may cause side effects, don’t take over-the-counter niacin without first discussing it with your doctor.

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