Heart-Healthy Living – Part 1

What are Triglycerides…and Why Should you Care?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. When we eat, our body converts any calories it doesn’t use right away into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells. Later, when we need an energy boost between meals, our body releases triglycerides to provide that energy. If we regularly eat more calories than we burn, triglyceride levels build up.

Although triglycerides and cholesterol are both types of blood fats, the body uses them differently. While triglycerides provide the body with energy, the body uses cholesterol to build cells and make hormones. Both perform important functions when they are present in healthy levels, but both cause problems when unhealthy levels build up in the blood. High triglyceride levels can increase the hardening and thickening of artery walls, and this raises the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.

Making the situation more troublesome, high triglycerides often occur in people who have other factors that increase their risk of heart disease and stroke—including obesity, excess fat around the waist (having an “apple-shaped” body), high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Sometimes a high triglyceride level is a sign of poorly controlled diabetes, low levels of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism), or liver or kidney disease. Some medications can raise triglyceride levels as a side effect, and some people have high triglycerides as a result of a genetic condition.

Lowering Triglycerides

Making healthier lifestyle choices is the key to lowering your triglyceride level.

    • If you are overweight, losing the extra pounds can help lower triglycerides. Remember, excess calories that are taken in and not burned are converted to triglycerides.
    • Limit sugary foods, because they can cause a sudden increase in insulin production, and this can increase triglycerides.
    • Choose healthier fats instead of saturated fats (found in animal-based foods such as meat and full-fat dairy products). Monounsaturated fats (found in olive, peanut, and canola oils) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish) are healthier alternatives.
    • Watch your alcohol intake. Not only is it high in calories and sugar, it also has a strong influence on triglycerides. Even a small amount of alcohol can cause a jump in
      triglyceride levels.
  • Regular exercise not only reduces triglycerides, it also lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol – three benefits from one healthy habit! If your doctor gives your exercise program the green light, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, follow your treatment plan. Controlling these conditions will make it easier to manage your triglycerides.

What about Medicine?

Sometimes healthy choices don’t bring triglyceride levels down enough, and medication has to be added to the program. If your doctor prescribes a medicine for you, it is important to take it exactly as prescribed. If there is anything you don’t understand about the drug or how to take it, your London Drugs pharmacist will be happy to help you. Just remember—medication works with healthy choices; it is not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle.

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