Everyone who has got their lipid profiles tested would have come across this term triglycerides in their report. All that we hear usually when people say fats are cholesterol and how they are good and bad, but not many talk about this guy, the triglycerides. Well, folks, this article is for all those who wonder what triglycerides are and what they do in our body.
What are triglycerides?
They are a type of fat (lipid) in the blood. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), ‘Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body’. When a person consumes more calories than what is needed by the body at that particular time, it gets converted into triglycerides. These triglycerides are stored by fat cells which are later released for energy which the body needs between meals. This action is accomplished with the help of hormones.
When more calories are consumed than what is burnt, it can lead to high triglycerides in the body. This happens on consumption of simple carbohydrates and fats. The AHA states, ‘Elevated triglycerides can be caused by overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (more than 60 percent of total calories). Underlying diseases or genetic disorders are sometimes the cause of high triglycerides.’
What are the normal levels of triglycerides?
A simple blood can reveal the level of triglycerides in the body.
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline High: 150 -199 mg/dL
- High: 200 -499 mg/dL
- Very High: 500 mg/dL
What happens if triglycerides are high in the body?
High triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) is associated to different heart health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, “high triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease (coronary artery disease, heart failure, atherosclerosis, heart valve disease).”
In a study by Beatriz G. Talayero, MD and Frank M. Sacks, MD (The Role of Triglycerides in Atherosclerosis), it was found that “Hypertriglyceridemia is a prevalent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and increasingly important in the setting of current obesity and insulin resistance epidemics. Patients who have hypertriglyceridemia may be at significant risk for CVD even if low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels are at goal.”
In simple words, high triglycerides have been associated with heart disease and may still be something to keep an eye on, even if the cholesterol levels are normal.
How to lower these high triglyceride levels?
Healthy lifestyle choices are crucial.
- Weight loss: if the individual is overweight or obese, losing a few kilos is a start to bring down the triglycerides in the body. Some ways to lose these extra kilos:
- Shift from refined foods to whole foods: foods that are made of refined flour and refined sugars are shown to contribute to the increase of triglyceride levels in the body.
- Exercise: many studies have shown that regular exercise can lower triglycerides and improve the good cholesterol in the body.
- Right calories for weight and activity: consuming the necessary calories needed by the body and not going overboard can help in preventing weight gain and help in weight loss.
- Reduce alcohol consumption: lowering the intake of alcohol is helpful in reducing triglycerides in the body. Many studies have shown that alcohol is associated with increased triglyceride levels.
- Quit smoking: many studies have shown that smoking is associated with increased triglycerides in the body.