Few people walk around knowing about triglycerides! In fact, they are an important part of our body, and it helps to be aware of what they are and how they function – and how you may potentially want to lower their presence in your body.
So what are they?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. They are actually the main form of fat that is carried in the blood, and they are composed of three molecules of fatty acids connected to glycerol.
As you might expect, therefore, it’s important to keep triglyceride levels within a healthy range. The body likes its healthy ranges! In the case of triglycerides, if your percentage or concentration of them is too high, you are increasing your risk of heart attacks and other forms of being generally unwell.
This is because these higher levels of triglycerides can increase the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your blood, and, as you may already know, bad cholesterol, as we call it, can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries. This then quite directly raises the potential for a heart attack or respiratory or circulation issues. The risk of a stroke is also raised significantly, depending on your cholesterol and triglyceride level.
What function do they serve?
The function of triglycerides in the body is a central one, but we still need to be measured about how high our level is of them. They provide us with energy, and they help to transport fat-soluble vitamins. They also enable our bodies to absorb essential fatty acids, and, yes, many fatty acids are absolutely essential.
Causes of High Triglycerides
This is not always an easy question to answer of diagnose in every individual, but among the reasons are usually the following.
- Diet! Your diet can have an influence on triglyceride levels. Eating too many simple carbohydrates is a cause. Sugary drinks, even though they may not be high in fat at all, can also cause triglyceride levels to rise. Saturated fats are also a dietary cause.
- Genetics can also play a role in raised triglycerides. Some people naturally have higher levels of triglycerides than others, due to their genetic makeup. This is obviously unfortunate, and you may not know if you are carrying undue levels, but if you are overweight, there is a good chance your triglyceride level is higher than desirable.
- Certain medical conditions also pormpt the body to have higher than desirable levels. These include hypothyroidism, diabetes, and kidney or liver problems.
If you suffer from any of these conditions there is a good chance this article is very relevant for you. You should perhaps chat to your doctor to discuss the matter further.
How to Lower Triglycerides
Reduce intake of simple carbs and added sugars
A great start is to reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates and added sugars. This will almost certainly help, as it is medically true that reducing the amounts of foods like white bread, pasta, and pastries can help lower your triglycerides levels.
This is because foods with simple carbs and added sugars contain high amounts of fructose, which, when metabolized by the liver, can lead to an increase in triglycerides.
The initial key is to do it gradually. Introduce a variety of fruits, vegetables, and complex carbs into your diet, while gradually limiting fatty and sugary foods. The sciecne is on your side! You will almost certainly find that your triglyceride levels lower as you adapt your dietary habits. And you’ll feel better too!
Increase your intake of lean proteins and unsaturated fats
Lean proteins like fish, poultry, and tofu are great sources of energy, and they come without the unhealthy fats that can raise triglyceride levels.
Other high-protein foods like eggs, nuts, and beans also have very significant amounts of healthy fats, and can very usefully form part of a first rate diet.
In terms of fats, which are of course necessary for our bodies, unsaturated fats, like those found in olive oil, avocados, and seeds, are also highly beneficial for reducing triglycerides – as long as they are consumed with moderation. Moderation is a word the body likes!
Eat fewer calories than you expend
This is the solution to almost all weight loss! Eat less than you expend, and the body will lose weight and fat.
Start by tracking what you eat each day, and stick to a healthy diet. Make sure you’re eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting the amount of unhealthy fats – and that you are definitely cutting back on processed foods, which are rarely as healthy for us as our bodies deserve. You should also make sure you get enough physical activity – burning more calories than you take in is the key.
Try to find an eating plan that works for you. Depending on your lifestyle and individual needs, what works for someone else might not work for you, so look at your lifestyle and what you have to do and find something that fits in with your needs. Be sensible and proportionate; do not expect miracles here. Lowering fat levels takes time, so stay positive and aim for medium term consistency.
Eat plenty of dietary fiber
Most people do not get enough fiber. That’s a fact. In truth, many of us actually fall far short.
The recommended daily intake of dietary fiber is between 20-30 grams each day, and for a full grown adult man you should be looking to hit 30 grams. For a woman, nearer 23-25 might be enough. To get fiber at the levels you need it, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans.
Cereals can be great, but do check the labels, as many of the commercial cereals are very high in sugar, even though they have whole grain wheat in them too. You could perhaps start by trying to replace refined grains with low sugar whole grain products, such as brown rice or oatmeal.
And of course make sure to drink plenty of water when adding extra dietary fiber to your day, as you may find you stimulate your digestive system to be quite active for a while, as your body adjusts to a better overall diet.
There is no doubt exercise will help lower triglyceride levels.
As you may know, it’s recommended that people do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, five times each week. This could include brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or jogging.
Alternatively, if you prefer, try doing 10-minute intervals of intense exercise, such as circuit training, three times a week.
Whatever you do, getting exercise into your life is absolutely vital.
Reduce stress levels
Stress levels can have a direct impact on triglyceride levels. You need to be very aware of stress in your life and of its potential harms to your body – and mind.
Taking time out to relax and do something you enjoy can be beneficial. Many people find yoga, tai chi and meditation to be very helpful, and exercise in the broadest sense is genuinely a stress lowering thing.
To sleep well, avoid caffeine and alcohol in the mid-late evenings, as these can make stress worse. They are, after all, addictive substances, in effect, so be sure to keep your intake sensible.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
In fact, smoking nicotine and drinking alcohol are the two biggest causes of high triglyceride levels in the blood.
To avoid risk, you really need to cut right back or stop altogether. The site has advice on how to stop smoking, so check it out. It will improve your health in so many ways.
There are no guarantees here, but giving up on these products, or at least reducing them, will very likely have a beneficial effect on the triglyceride levels in your bloodstream.
Take medications as prescribed
If you have been prescribed medications to help lower your triglyceride levels, then it is obviously important to take them as prescribed.
Not taking medications properly will delay the effectiveness of the treatment and may, in some circumstances, affect the body negatively and lead to poor control of your condition.
Discuss natural supplements with your doctor
For some people, this approach holds a real appeal. Some people prefer to avoid prescription medication. That said, be aware that in the US, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate these products, so it’s important to be aware that they may not work as advertised. Different countries’ regulatory regimes may also not be as strict with these treatments either, so perhaps check the situation relevant to your own nation’s approach.
That said, natural supplements have a long and good history of being generally useful ways of addressing many health conditions, so do not be unduly alarmed.
It is, of course, always a good idea to discuss any supplement you might take with your doctor first. They can advise you on any potential interactions with other medications you are taking, as well as potential side effects.
Monitor your progress closely
As with all health matters, monitoring your progress closely is essential when trying to lower your triglycerides. By tracking your diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits, you can easily determine whether the changes you’re making are helping or not.
We recommend you keep a food diary tracking all your meals and snacks, as well as any supplements or medications you’re taking. Additionally, you should measure your blood triglyceride levels regularly. If you’re making positive, healthy choices, you should see your numbers steadily decrease over time.
On the other hand, if you don’t notice any changes, or your levels are increasing, you may need to further adjust your diet and lifestyle habits. It’s important to be persistent with your efforts and to consult with a healthcare professional if needed.
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