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Triglycerides: the Key to a Healthy Heart

By Perrin Braun May 29, 2012

 

Whether you are an athlete or someone who is just concerned about your diet, the foods that you eat affect your heart. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are common indicators of cardiovascular health, but you should keep an eye on your triglyceride levels too! Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood thatcan increase your risk of heart disease if your levels are too high.

The good news is that diet and exercise can help lower your triglyceride levels. InsideTracker blood analysis will let you know if your triglyceride levels are optimal, and will also provide you with ways to keep your heart healthy.image

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a lipid, or a type of fat, that is found in your blood and stored in fat cells. Most of the fats that we eat—especially butter, margarine, and oil—contain triglycerides. If you eat more calories than your body needs, extra calories are turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. Between meals and snacks, certain hormones signal your body to release the stored triglycerides for energy. Fat is the body’s largest reserve of energy because it’s so calorie dense! Fat is a critical source of fuel for endurance exercise—your body actually stores some fat in muscle fibers. However, people who generally consume more calories than they burn have a propensity for high triglyceride levels.

Click here to learn how InsideTracker can recommend foods that can help improve your heart health and optimize your physical performance!

How are triglycerides different from cholesterol?

Both triglycerides and cholesterol circulate throughout your bloodstream and can have serious impacts on your health, but the similarities end there. Triglycerides are considered to be fat, while cholesterol is not. While triglycerides are responsible for storing extra calories and providing your body with energy, cholesterol is used to create cells and certain hormones.

Why is it important to maintain low levels of triglycerides?

High triglyceride levels may lead to atherosclerosis, or the thickening of the artery walls. If your arteries become hard or thick, then your risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease increases. High triglyceride levels are often indicative of other conditions that can predispose you to adverse health effects, including obesity, high blood pressure and blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.

High triglyceride levels are sometimes a sign of poorly controlled type-2 diabetes, liver or kidney disease, or low levels of certain thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). Certain medications, such as beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics, steroids or the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, can also cause your levels of triglycerides to rise.

What are optimal levels of triglycerides?

A blood test from your physician or an InsideTracker blood analysis will measure your triglyceride levels. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), an optimal triglyceride level is considered to be 100 mg/dL or lower. The AHA guidelines for triglycerides are as follows:

Normal – Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per L (mmol/L) Borderline high — 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L) High — 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L) Very high — 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above)

What are some ways to reduce high levels of triglycerides?

In order to reach the normal or optimal level, the AHA recommends that individuals make certain lifestyle changes—namely, lose weight, improve diet, and increase physical activity—to reduce their triglyceride levels. In fact, a study published by the AHA showed that eating a balanced diet and engaging in physical activity can reduce your triglyceride levels by as much as 20 percent!

Specifically, you can lower your levels of triglycerides by:

reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in your diet consuming healthier unsaturated fats lowering your dietary cholesterol losing weight eating less sugary foods choosing whole-grain foods instead of foods made with refined flour limiting alcoholic beverages increasing physical activity  

For more advice on how nutrition can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, check out InsideTracker for a personalized list of heart-healthy foods that suit your taste buds!