What are triglycerides?
You’ve probably heard about triglycerides (TG) during a routine physical or after a cholesterol test. But what are they and why should you pay attention to them? Dr Michael Miller, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and the author of Heal Your Heart, explains that triglyceride levels indicate the amount of fat in your bloodstream. “The average level for adult men and women after an overnight fast is 125, with optimal levels below 100,” he says. “The borderline-high range is 150 to 199, and high levels are 200 and above.” If your levels are creeping upwards, says Dr Miller, your risk of heart disease and death from cardiovascular disease will also rise. Higher levels, especially when you have low HDL ( ‘good’ cholesterol) or high LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), are linked with hardening of the arteries.
Conditions that raise triglycerides
Certain health conditions can cause high triglycerides, so let your doctor know your medical history or any unusual symptoms you may have. This could shed some light on your levels, says Dr Joel Kahn, a clinical professor of medicine. For example, he says conditions such as prediabetes, diabetes, liver disease and thyroid disease could be responsible for high triglycerides. But lifestyle factors have a huge impact on your triglycerides as well, so before your doctor prescribes medication, you may want to try to lower them naturally. Here’s how to do it.
Cut refined carbs
Overeating is one of the most common causes of high triglycerides. Dr Miller stresses the importance of making healthier food choices and limiting simple carbs like those found in white bread, pasta, cakes, cookies and many snacks. “Since excess sugar is converted into triglycerides in the bloodstream, eating foods high in refined carbs can cause a spike in TG levels,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator and the author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet.