It's normal that your blood contains a certain level of triglycerides. But, if you eat too many calories, regardless of the source, your body will transform the excess into triglycerides for storage as body fat.
So, what are triglycerides?
They are in fact the main form of fat in foods, but they are not the same thing as cholesterol. Triglycerides are fats, whereas cholesterol is a fat-like substance insoluble in water.
Similar to LDL cholesterol however, having a high triglyceride level in your body is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
In 2008 Danish researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association evidence of a strong link between high triglyceride levels and the risk of stroke. Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that one-third of American adults have triglyceride levels that are borderline, or too high.
Taken together, the studies suggest it's not just LDL and HDL cholesterol we need to be concerned with. It appears there is certainly a need for better management of triglycerides also.
You can compare your triglyceride results using the following guidelines:
- Normal - less than 150mg/dL
- Borderline-high - 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High - 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high - 500mg/dL or higher
If your triglycerides are a little on the high side, thankfully there are a number of lifestyle changes that will help:
#1 Are you overweight?
Check out our BMI calculator to find out if your weight falls within the healthy range.
If you are overweight, do try to make a conscious effort to reduce your daily calorie intake (from all sources of calories, fats, proteins, carbohydrates and alcohol).
Choose lots of fresh fruits, and vegetables, smaller amounts of wholegrain cereals, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products.
And, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days each week. Remember, regular exercise can help boost your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and losing those excess pounds can help lower triglycerides.
#2 Watch your portion sizes
Excess calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Therefore reducing your portions at mealtimes will ultimately reduce your calorie intake, and may help you control your triglycerides.
#3 Avoid sugary and refined foods
Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour, can cause a sudden increase in insulin production, this can in turn increase triglyceride levels, so try to limit your intake to small amounts only.
#4 Choose good sources of fat
This includes sources of saturated and trans fats, as well as cholesterol-containing foods.
Trade saturated fats for healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, for example those found in olive oil, peanut oil, or safflower oil.
Choose fish twice each week, with one portion being oily fish. Excellent choices of fatty fish are salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, and fresh tuna.
Try to eliminate the trans fat in your diet from fried foods and many commercially baked
products, such as cookies, crackers and also some margarine. If you're not sure if the food contains trans fats, look out for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil on the label.
#5 Take care with alcohol
Try to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, which has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglyceride levels.
You should limit your alcohol intake to a maximum of one drink per day.