10 Steps to Lowering Triglycerides

steps to lowering triglycerides10 Steps to Lowering Triglycerides

When you get your cholesterol checked with a blood test (often called a lipid panel) you may see a number for “triglycerides.” Triglycerides are a type of lipid (fat) in your blood and are an important measure of your heart health. If you eat more calories than your body burns, your body converts these extra calories into triglycerides, which you store in your fat cells. You can also develop high triglycerides if you regularly eat a lot of calories from carbohydrates and fats. If you have high triglycerides, you are a good candidate to be taking steps to lowering triglycerides.

If your triglycerides are too high you could be at risk for hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, which is thickening of the artery walls. This can increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. Having high triglycerides is often associated with other conditions that can lead to stroke and heart disease, such as obesity and metabolic syndrome (which is a series of conditions involving high blood pressure, abdominal fat, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels). High triglycerides can also be a sign of uncontrolled diabetes, low thyroid, kidney or liver disease, or other conditions.

Getting Tested for Triglycerides

Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood. A cholesterol test/lipid panel is one of the recommended tests every man over 50 should get. When you go in for your lipid panel it is important to fast for 9 to 12 hours to get an accurate reading.

The following can help you interpret your triglyceride level:

  • Normal level: less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
  • High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
  • Very high: 500 mg/dL and up

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that an optimal triglyceride level is 100 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L) or lower. Maintaining this level can improve your heart health. If you are in the borderline high to very high range, it is important to take steps to lowering your triglycerides.

How to Lower Your Triglycerides

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one-third of adults in the U.S. have borderline to high triglycerides. That means there is a pretty good chance that you have some room for improvement. The AHA recommends reaching the optimal triglyceride level through diet and lifestyle changes such as the following 10 steps to lowering triglycerides:

  • Avoid sugary foods, simple carbohydrates, and refined foods
  • Reduce your calorie intake
  • Limit cholesterol in diet (found in egg yolk, whole milk, and meat)
  • Eliminate trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils)
  • Eat healthier fats (go for monounsaturated fats like those in olives, nuts, avocadoes, and fish like wild salmon)
  • Take supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and red yeast rice
  • Lose weight (even 5 to 10 pounds can improve triglyceride level)
  • Do physical activity (aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day)
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Manage stress

Treatment with drugs is not the recommended way to reduce triglycerides, since lifestyle factors work well. There are several drugs your doctor may recommend, especially if you also have very high cholesterol, although the AHA and American College of Cardiology made recent changes to cholesterol guidelines. The new guidelines point to using diet and exercise instead of medication for many patients. The good news on dietary changes is that there are several delicious foods that lower cholesterol.

The Best Diet for Heart Health

A heart-healthy diet that promotes healthy arteries and lower blood pressure is the Mediterranean diet. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the Mediterranean diet can reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%. This diet is high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish and low in saturated fat, replacing butter with healthier fats like olive oil and nuts. The diet involves a long-term eating plan that also includes fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Another positive benefit for heart health is that the Mediterranean diet uses herbs and spices to flavor food instead of salt. This diet helps prevent inflammation, which also contributes to high triglycerides.

Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, or potential heart attack. If you have high triglycerides, take action to reduce them by following the steps to lowering triglycerides. Keep in mind that other health factors like testosterone levels can affect a man’s risk for heart disease, so be sure to talk to your doctor about that as well.

By taking steps to improve your heart health through diet, reduced calories, weight loss, and exercise, you will also be lowering your risk for other health problems that specifically affect men such as prostatitis, enlarged prostate, prostate cancer and other cancers, and even your risk for mental decline like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

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