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Triglycerides and Cholesterol – Culprits behind Heart Disease

  • Triglyceride levels are checked at the same time as your cholesterol
  • High triglycerides can be associated with metabolic syndrome which increases your risk of heart disease
  • Some diseases, medications, and lifestyle factors can contribute to high levels of cholesterol triglycerides
  • Lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to bring those numbers down

The last time you had a physician order blood work, chances are good that the test included a cholesterol level check. With such a test, you usually get four numbers back: total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels, and triglyceride levels. A combination of high triglycerides and high cholesterol can be dangerous to your health, but too many people don’t understand the risks involved or how to take action to prevent them.

What are Triglycerides?

As you probably already know, the food you eat is turned into energy by your body; however, not all the calories you take in will be needed immediately. The excess is saved in the form of triglycerides, which can be stored in your body’s fat cells and used later when energy is needed. In some cases, though, the body continues taking in more and more triglycerides without using the ones that have already been stored. This creates a surplus of triglycerides.

It’s important to have those extra stores of triglycerides to provide you with energy when you need it, but when those levels become too high, you could develop something called metabolic syndrome. While triglycerides alone may or may not be a factor in heart disease, metabolic syndrome will put you at greater risk for developing cardiovascular problems down the road.

Causes of High Triglycerides

Before understanding the causes of developing high triglyceride levels, you should know what is considered high in terms of the numbers for the condition. According to the American Heart Association, good numbers for triglycerides are anything lower than 150 mg/dL. If you are below 200 mg/dL, your physician will probably recommend lifestyle changes to prevent those numbers from further increasing. Anything over 200 mg/dL is considered high or very high. By itself, a high triglyceride reading may not be cause for too much concern, as metabolic syndrome is usually characterized by a combination of high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar and high blood pressure.

High triglyceride levels can be triggered by many factors, including genetics, obesity, uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes, hypothyroidism, high alcohol consumption, kidney disease, and overeating. Steroids, female hormones, and diuretics can also increase triglyceride levels.

Lowering Triglycerides and Cholesterol

The best way to bring down triglyceride numbers is through lifestyle changes. These changes are not only effective at keeping triglyceride numbers low, but also at improving your overall heart health. Cutting down on the amount of saturated fats you consume daily is a good start. Saturated fats are bad for cholesterol, in general, but can also raise triglyceride levels. Saturated fat is commonly found in fried foods and red meat products. Try substituting fish for steaks and hamburgers. Fish is high in fatty acids, which have been shown to promote good cholesterol levels.

Another lifestyle change that can help prevent triglyceride levels from increasing is to raise your level of physical activity. By expending more energy, your body will have fewer calories left over to make new triglycerides. Plus, you may also end up burning some of the stores.

The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.

6 Responses to “Triglycerides and Cholesterol – Culprits behind Heart Disease”

  1. 1
    Jon Says:
    What are the best kinds of foods to eat if you're watching your cholesterol. Can things like Cheerios really help?
  2. 2
    Tim Says:
    It's important to remember that sometimes, just eating right can help you maintain your cholesterol. You need to be well aware if the disorder runs in your family.
  3. 3
    Brandy Says:
    This is a really great resource. It is important for everybody to start taking care of themselves as early as possible -- prevention is the best possible cure, after all.
  4. 4
    ProfNutraLegacy Says:
    Dear Bev, There really doesn't seem to be much evidence to suggest that artificial sweeteners elevate triglyceride levels. Most of these types of sugar subsitutes are not absorbed by the body and add no caloric value. Consequently, there is no leftover carbohydrate that can be stored as fat. Some thought exists that excessive intake of artificial sweeteners can exacerbate weight gain. So it is probably best to still use these in moderation. If nothing else, there is a tendency to eat more food that has a lower level of sugar, which defeats the whole purpose. The suggested usage per day of artificial sweeteners according to the FDA is: Aspartame (NutraSweet): 50mg/kg of body weight Acesulfame Potassium: 15mg/kg of body weight Sucralose: 5mg/kg of body weight Remember that this dose is per 1 kilo of body weight, so as a frame of reference, a person who weighs 154 lbs is equivalent to 70 kilos. Based on this, it would seem that it would be difficult to ingest too much. However, there are numerous reports of adverse effects from ingesting NutraSweet, so you must judge for yourself. By the way, it is worth knowing that Splenda is the trade name for sucralose, but a packet of Splenda is less than 2% actual sucralose. I hope this helps. Prof. Nutralegacy
  5. 5
    Bev Says:
    Do you know if there is any relationship between triglycerides and artificial sweetners? What is the limit of artificial sweetners per day? Thank you for your assistance
  6. 6
    Jason Says:
    After my doctor told me that my triglycerides were just about off the wall, I made it a point to change my eating habits and exercise routine. That was six months ago and I've lost 50 pounds and dropped my numbers down to acceptable levels. It's amazing how exercise really affects things.