What are Triglycerides?
You hear a lot about good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, but what about triglycerides? Is that number important? You bet it is and if you keep reading you’ll find out why.
This is the unknown fat, the dark horse if you will. We are so concerned with HDL and LDL that we forget there is a third number in the mix that also requires our attention. Normal triglyceride levels are below 150 dl/ml. some say below 200 dl/ml but under 150 keeps you in good standing.
Triglycerides are fats. It is the form of fat that is most prevalent in your body. They, like cholesterol lipids, are found in blood plasma.
The fats in your foods are turned into triglycerides and stored as fat. When the body needs additional fuel sources, it uses those stored fats.
The problem comes in when there are too many triglycerides. We eat too much fat and don’t do enough exercise. More triglycerides are floating around in the blood. Combine them with some cholesterol and they form very low density lipoproteins (VLDL), another bad cholesterol character.
Since we know what LDL does, VLDL does it more. Too many triglycerides can form plaques, narrowing the opening in blood vessels and increasing blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
Lowering Triglyceride Levels
If your triglyceride number is over 150 dl/ml, it is time to work on lowering it. When high triglyceride levels are present usually there is not much HDL, or good cholesterol. This is particularly bad. HDL helps lower bad cholesterol but it needs to be present in high levels to work properly.
How do you lower your triglycerides?
• Control your diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to many systemic problems including high triglyceride levels.
• Cut the calories. Triglycerides come from fat in the food we eat. Limit the fat (remember not all fats are bad so know which ones need to be limited) and the overall calories to lower your outside contribution of triglycerides.
• Lower alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol impairs the liver. The liver processes triglycerides and it can’t do that if it’s destroyed by alcohol.
• Lower other risk factors. If you aren’t exercising, get going. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in your life. If you smoke, work on quitting. It weakens blood vessels that can further be affected by a buildup of triglycerides in the body.
So, the next time you get your blood cholesterol levels checked, don’t ignore that last number. Triglyceride levels are very important. When out of control, they act as co-conspirators with bad cholesterol to increase your risk of heart disease. Help them stay in check.