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How Can I Lower My Triglycerides?


By +Elisa Zied on Jun 14, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

When it comes to a healthy heart, blood pressure and blood cholesterol numbers usually take center stage. But did you know that triglycerides also matter? 

When you eat, the energy (or calories) you get from food that aren’t immediately used by your body are converted into triglycerides (blood fats, or lipids) and stored in your fat cells. In between meals, certain hormones help shuttle triglycerides out of your fat cells to be used to for energy by the body. 

Having high triglycerides can wreak havoc with your arteries and make it tough for blood to flow through them to get to your heart and brain. This increases your risk for a heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. 

Although genes play a role in determining your triglyceride level, being overweight and/or consuming a less than healthful diet are also factors. Having diabetes, hypothyroidism, and kidney or liver disease can also raise triglycerides to unhealthy levels. 

Here’s how the American Heart Association classifies triglyceride levels: 

Optimal:  Up to 100 milligrams per deciliter;

Normal:  Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter;

Borderline High:  150 to 199 milligrams per deciliter;

High:  200 to 499 milligrams per deciliter;

Very High:  500 milligrams per deciliter or above.

If your triglycerides are borderline high to very high, don’t despair! Here are 5 tips to help you lower your levels and improve your health overall: 

  • Lose it to lower it.  According to a recent American Heart Association (AHA) position paper in Circulation, losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight can help lower triglyceride levels by about 20 percent. Reducing portions of all foods and beverages—especially those that provide a lot of calories, fat and/or sugar but few nutrients—and increasing physical activity—especially aerobic-type activities like walking or swimming—can help you create a calorie deficit to promote slow, gradual weight loss.

  • Go soft on sweets.  According to Dr. Janet Brill, a registered dietitian and the author of Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease, along with excess calories, too many simple sugars in the diet are notorious triglyceride boosters. The AHA recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 100 calories for women or 150 calories for men. Replacing some added sugars and fructose with small amounts of unsaturated fats (for example, monounsaturated fat-rich olive oil, canola oil, flaxseeds, walnuts and avocado) can help reduce triglyceride levels, according to the AHA.

  • Focus on fats.  When asked if she could recommend one key food to include to lower triglycerides, Brill said, “Fish, fish and more fish!” She added, “The only nutrient proven to lower triglyceride levels are the long-chain omega-3 fish fats—EPA and DHA—found in large, fatty, cold water fish that swim deep down in the sea.” Fish high in omega-3’s (but also low in mercury) include salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, and trout.  Having fatty fish more often, especially in place of red meat and poultry, not only provides heart-healthy fats, but can lower intake of less healthful saturated fats.

  • Make some simple swaps.  Brill also recommends replacing some refined breads, cereals, pasta and crackers with whole grain versions to provide more dietary fiber (which helps prevent a quick rise and fall in blood sugar level) and boost overall nutrient intake. 

  • Put a cork in it.  If you have a high triglyceride level but rather not ban the bubbly—which has been shown to raise triglyceride levels—play it safe and cap intake to no more than one drink per day—that’s 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Brill recommends you "going red" when choosing spirits. She adds, “Red wine has ten times the antioxidant content of white wine--hence is the best choice for pumping up your daily antioxidant intake.” 

Your thoughts...

Have you ever had high triglycerides? How have you tried to lower your number?

Research assistance by Carly Levine.

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com.  Sign up for the free weekly ZIED GUIDE™ newsletter for nutrition tips and news you can use (go to right side of home page at elisazied.com).  Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.



Comments


I had a little problem and took non flush Niacin, found a slow release one that was great, and it brought it down very quickly. No flushing or ther issues.


Lowering my carbs and upping my food quality (no wheat or seed oils) dropped mine down to 72, and I'm not even all that strict.

 



Original Post by: chawks64

Lowering my carbs and upping my food quality (no wheat or seed oils) dropped mine down to 72, and I'm not even all that strict.

 


Yep this article is more conventional wisdom...so annoying to those that know better.  At least bit by bit they are adding in things.  Good points about the article such as fish are correct and going light on sweets is good.

Calory theory is still in heavy attendance.  For a large set of people a calorie is not just a calorie saying things like move a little more and eat less...sad.  There is way too much focus on calories. 

If you want to lose weight do yourself a favor and go read jackkruse.com all the Leptin articles and ...pretty much everything else.  Also read Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson, The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf or a myriad of other Paleo books.  Check out marksdailyapple.com too. 

http://www.truthaboutabs.com/the-canola-oil-deception.html

Canola oil is horrible.  There are plenty more articles on why its bad. 

Good for you oils are good organic coconut oil, grass-fed beef tallow or butter/ghee.

http://www.livingpaleo.com/best-oils-to-cook-with/

The animal fats are preferred if they are from naturally raised ie pastured and fed natural diets and of course never hydrogenated.

Fat if its healthy fat as in the oils mentioned is not something you need to avoid.  You don't want to get a ton of conventionally raised stuff.  If you can't afford grassfed make sure to get plenty of good fish in your diet.

 



For almost 25 years now I have had triglyceride levels between 900+ to as low as 225.  Lovaza almost did the trick but I developed an intolerance and had to stop taking the drug.  I'm a type II diabetic now and insulin dependent at the moment.  I suffered a massive heart attack last July and had two stents placed.

Interestingly, my cholesterol is always in a good level.  The triglycerides are reported to be "genetic", but I have never figured out why.

I am not a drinker, do not eat "prepared" meats. Carb intake is greater than I'd like and at 6'1" I'm not "overweight" at 204.  When I lost weight after my heart attack to 181, there was no immediate impact in triglyceride levels.



My triglycerides have been high for many years, as were my father's. Most of my life I was told that I needed to be on a low fat diet. That didn't do it-they were still 300 or more, even with medication. Finally I found a doctor who said that it wasn't the fat in diet, but the carbs/sugar that cause high triglycerides. I have been on an 80 carb/day eating plan for 2 years and they fell to 75, then 64 at my last physical. More and more science is proving that this approach is the one that is effective.

Thank goodness for a Dr who did not march in lockstep with so many of her peers. She is a DO-the first one I have been to and I am so thankful that I found her.



I just had my follow up doctor appointment/blood work after being put on Lipitor & losing almost 30 pounds since January.  My Triglycerides are down to 69!!!  Normally over 200.  My chloresterol is in the normal range!  It has never been there.  I've been using a low carb (Atkins-type) diet since January, including more olive oil, avacodo, fish, chicken and lots of veggies.  Three years ago I lost 42 pounds but my chloresterol readings were still too high along with the triglycerides.  Perhaps the low carb diet and probably the meds are working.  I have a family history of high chloresterol.  He also told me I am not in the "overweight" range now.  Wow, I am really pleased.



My husband's been taking fish oil caplets :) Over several months, they've been working or at least helping.  He's lost 15 lbs too.  



Original Post by: fluffydragon

My husband's been taking fish oil caplets :) Over several months, they've been working or at least helping.  He's lost 15 lbs too.  


Good for you! Like to hear the successes.



Original Post by: fluffydragon

My husband's been taking fish oil caplets :) Over several months, they've been working or at least helping.  He's lost 15 lbs too.  


Glad to hear your diet includes vegetable carbs. Your comment is great, hope you can get off the meds some day.



Sorry, meant to respond to ljshdown that second time there. Pay attention, me!



What about fruits? I see mention of low carbs and no sugar. Are fruits included?


Original Post by: cruizon2005

What about fruits? I see mention of low carbs and no sugar. Are fruits included?

Generally speaking, fruits are not always included when talking about reducing sugar intake - it can be a factor, but fruits contain naturally occurring fruit sugar - fructose - that is treated differently by your body than refined sugars.  Fruit is very good for you and should be eaten every day, IMO.

I myself don't follow a low-carb diet. I've tried from time to time, but I just feel too deprived. When following Atkins, fruit sugar DOES count.

As always, the main thing is to keep track of your calories.



Fruit is wonderful! But it's important to consume healthy amounts of it..more is not more! 1.5 to 2 cups is appropriate for most of us each day according to current guidelines. If you buy packaged fruit (canned etc), make sure it contains no added sugars. If you consume 100 percent fruit juice, limit to about 1/2 cup to 1 cup a day (fresh fruit preferable because of it's fiber content)...dried frit, stick to about 1-2 tablespons since it's such a concentrated source of calories and make sure it doesn't contain added sugars. Hope this helps.



Wow ok...my husband works outdoors and in Texas heat. He likes fruits and Veggies. Esp the fruit because it cools him. He cant stomach anything else when it is so hot. All fresh cut fruits, I send an orange, abt 3 squared cuts of watermellon and sometimes 4 strawberries. Then veggies. Any suggestions on tha?


great veggie options: carrots/peppers cut into strips/edamame/broccoli or plum/grape/cherry tomatoes (with a low fat yogurt dip or hummus on the side)....



Yes I do the carrots and broc. I cant send anything that might spoil. I sometimes do cauliflower. Hr cany do tomatoes and peppers, they give him heartburn. His lipids are huge. U all will freak out. Last time trigl were 3100 and chlo was 900. He saw a specialist several years ago and she said it is hereditary. She said if he ate grass all the time they would still not be in normal range. I try so hard ti make healthy meal. I am disabled so its difficult. Do any of u know of a good cookbook with easy healthy recipes? Thanks!!


Original Post by: cruizon2005

Wow ok...my husband works outdoors and in Texas heat. He likes fruits and Veggies. Esp the fruit because it cools him. He cant stomach anything else when it is so hot. All fresh cut fruits, I send an orange, abt 3 squared cuts of watermellon and sometimes 4 strawberries. Then veggies. Any suggestions on tha?

Eating 80 carbs a day gives you plenty of options for fruits and vegetables. Berries and watermelon are great and you are eating net carbs so subtract the fiber from the carb number to get the net figure. Don't think that low carb means cutting out healthy goods. I find that cutting out processed foods and sugary foods and drinks really helps and I do take 4 grams of fish oil daily. Oranges are also just fine, just try to keep track of the carbs.



Original Post by: ljashdown

I just had my follow up doctor appointment/blood work after being put on Lipitor & losing almost 30 pounds since January.  My Triglycerides are down to 69!!!  Normally over 200.  My chloresterol is in the normal range!  It has never been there.  I've been using a low carb (Atkins-type) diet since January, including more olive oil, avacodo, fish, chicken and lots of veggies.  Three years ago I lost 42 pounds but my chloresterol readings were still too high along with the triglycerides.  Perhaps the low carb diet and probably the meds are working.  I have a family history of high chloresterol.  He also told me I am not in the "overweight" range now.  Wow, I am really pleased.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqdzJLOQM2I

Watch this.  Lipitor is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddddddddddd as are all statins.  The only possibly beneficial thing about it is a slight anti inflammatory effect...but the bad effects outweigh the bad.  If you want things that are good for you and anti-inflammatory than eat lots of good vegetables.  Just go easy on the starchy vegetables like potatoes and sweet potatoes.

If you're interested in reading more there is tons more out there detailing why statins are no good.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/0 5/dr-mercola-interviews-dr-robert-rowen-part-2-cholesterol.a spx?e_cid=20120505_DNL_art_1

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/2 6/think-twice-before-using-statin-drugs.aspx?e_cid=20111026_ DNL_art_1



http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

Anyone looking for a good doctor who will treat the causes of their health problems and not just give you a pill should see if there is someone in their area on this list.



Original Post by: raiken3712

http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

Anyone looking for a good doctor who will treat the causes of their health problems and not just give you a pill should see if there is someone in their area on this list.


I totally agree about statins being bad-especially ineffective for women. They should never be used for someone without a history of cardiac problems. More studies than ever are available with this information. Don't just be a robot to a pill pushing Dr. It's your health and your life!



Original Post by: jodyret

Original Post by: raiken3712

http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

Anyone looking for a good doctor who will treat the causes of their health problems and not just give you a pill should see if there is someone in their area on this list.


I totally agree about statins being bad-especially ineffective for women. They should never be used for someone without a history of cardiac problems. More studies than ever are available with this information. Don't just be a robot to a pill pushing Dr. It's your health and your life!


That's one of the reasons I like the people on that list of doctors.  They aren't just pill pushers.  They go after causes of your issues not just giving you a pill for symptoms as is far too typical.

Many doctors will see high cholesterol and because of the conventional wisdom they will scream bad and push a statin on you because they believe its what you need....or just because they want money...I'm sure its a bit of both depending on the doctor.



For several years My total cholesterol has ranged between 242 and 270.Since the trend was upward I finally gave in to my doctor wanting me on a statin & also started running and eating less, which has resulted in a weight loss of about 15 pounds so far (from about 165) and has lowered my total cholesterol to 146, LDL from 168 to69.. I have never had a problem with triglycerides--it's the LDL that raises my numbers! What do I do about that? I'd rather not use medication.



LDL itself is not an issue its the kind of LDL. 

http://www.preventive-cardiology.com/small_dense_ldl.htm

If you are on a statin watch this. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqdzJLOQM2I

Whats important is the kind of cholesterol you have not how much you have.  To get the kind you want you need to eat a diet consisting of good healthy fats.

http://www.livingpaleo.com/best-oils-to-cook-with/

Stay away from processed food as much as possible.

Eat plenty of good vegetables and a moderate amount of fruits.  Keep the starchy vegetables like potatoes to a minimum.  You want to be below 150 carbohydrates at the very least and if you are wanting to lose weight below 100.

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-primal-carbohydrate-conti nuum/#axzz1xrgNDgCm

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/definitive-guide-to-the-prima l-eating-plan/#axzz1xrgNDgCm

 



Thanks for your input Raiken3712, I will use the article on LDL particle size when I next see my doctor.

I did so many things at once, it's hard to know what brought my numbers down so much. Part of cutting down on portions has meant cutting out processed foods & refined carbohydrates, eating more vegetables, fruits & nuts. I've been using extra virgin olive oil for years. I eat a lot of vegetarian meals with animal protein usually only once a day unless I'm training hard for a race then I up the animal protein by a portion (I run 10-15 miles /week unless I'm training for a 10k or 15k, then it's 5-10 miles more). I've cut alcoholic beverages to 1 glass of wine or beer once or twice a week.

Several years ago I lost 23 pounds, but it didn't budge my LDL at all. I don't recollect whether I changed WHAT I ate or only that I ate less of it. My exercise then was 2 aerobics classes & 2 spinning classes/week.

Certainly anything I've read about statins suggests a much less successful lowering of cholesterol with just the statin. BTW I'm taking simvastatin which seems to have fewer side effects than some of the other statins. No muscle or memory problems. 



It may not have as many side effects or it may not have them as fast I wouldn't assume they don't get worse over time or something.  Its still completely unnecessary and if you're eating a moderate amounts of fruits and plenty of good veggies your anti-inflammatory status should be good.

Your doctor may want you to stay on it even after you tell them but I suggest you either just ignore the advice on the statin or get a new doctor.

http://paleophysiciansnetwork.com/

Have you looked at this yet?  Maybe you have someone decent in your area.  Sadly my closest person is 45 mins away which isn't that much but I don't even have my own car.  I get a ride from my brother to a closer one but the one I've been going to does the nutrition advice/chiro but can't give RX and stuff.

Make sure to get plenty of Vitamin D preferably from the sun.  Its a good anti-inflammatory too.  Go check out and read articles on drmercola.com

He has several different articles on it.  Basically you want to get enough sun for the Vitamin D but not enough to sun burn.  Sun burn can happen fast for some depending on skin type but no one burns in less than a min so you just have to figure out your limits either by self testing or looking up what most people with your skin type get sunburn in.

There might even be a few tips in some of those articles.  Vitamin D you get from the sun is Vitamin D Sulfate and activated form you won't get from normal supplements.  I could go into it more but just read drmercola.com articles and you'll get plenty of info.

 



You could try to make your doctor a better doctor but if they are using statins I tend to think they are wrong on quite a bit of other things...and it may be hard to change a doctor who is set on conventional wisdom.

 



He actually does listen to what I say and worked with me for 3 years before giving me the Rx. My fault for being a couch potato & eating too much red meat & starchy carbs last year. If I keep up my current lifestyle He might even agree to me going off, if only to test the new lifestyle effect.

I usually do my running before 6:30 a.m. but get out and walk at work most days from 9:45-10:05. That's my sun. I'm very into natural D, but try not to overdo because I was a bit of a sun-worshipper in the 60's &70's, so now I have to check my skin regularly. I know some sun is actually protective against cancer, I just don't want to cross the line.



Much of whats bad in CAFO meat ie most meat you'll find in stores isn't bad because its red meat its bad because of anti-biotics and hormones they feed the animals.  Feeding grains skews the Omega 3 Omega 6 ratio too.

Its not a terrible idea to avoid eating too much of it but you should try some organic grassfed if you can find a store that sells it.  There are some health food type places that offer grass-fed and if you have a big freezer you can go to some farms that raise their animals on pasture feeding grass and get half or quarter beef quite a bit cheaper.  Just make sure to get plenty of good fish in as that's the most important animal fat.

You might want to check the UV Index in your area from 9:45-10:05....in my area its like 2 or lower during that time and from what I heard 3 and up is when you get Vitamin D.  You may be getting 0 during that time.

Ironically its the time they tell you is worst from 11-3 that has the values you need to get Vitamin D.  My UV index starting at 12 noon here is 9 10 10 9 7 4.  At 4 in the afternoon its supposed to be a 7 and at 5 its a 4 so you may want to pick one of the lower points.  All that matters is it needs to be 3 or higher.

If you get the right ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats and have a good amount of Vitamin D its actually quite a bit harder to sun burn.



I have lost a sister to cancer, one has cancer now, my parents both have it.  There is diabetes and high cholesterol in my family.  I have been on and off of diets my entire life and am now 59 years old and weigh 186.  I need help.  I would love to read this book. 



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