RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Many people pay attention to their cholesterol levels, or at least know that they should. But researchers say skyrocketing triglyceride levels are rarely treated, and they can lead to cardiovascular disease, too. Like cholesterol, triglycerides are fats present in the blood; and if your levels are too high, it’s known as hypertriglyceridemia.
THE DETAILS: Centers for Disease Control researchers used data from more than 5,600 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 1999 and 2004. They found that 33 percent of those surveyed had borderline-high triglyceride levels (between 150 and 199 mg/dL; below 150 is considered normal). Another 18 percent of the group ranged above 200 mg/dL. Less than 4 percent of those with levels above 200 mg/dL were being treated for it with prescription medication.
WHAT IT MEANS: With such a large chunk of our population harboring an apparent risk factor for heart disease, you’d think triglycerides would be getting more attention. The good news is that triglyceride levels respond well to lifestyle habits that will help you in other ways, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Here’s how to keep your triglyceride levels low:
• Test your blood, retool your diet. A simple blood test will determine your triglyceride level. If you test at 150 mg/dL or higher, reduce the amount of starches, breads, pasta, and other high-carb foods on your plate. Also, cut back on red meat and other foods high in saturated fat. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel, sardines, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and choose healthy fats like olive or canola oil for cooking and in salads. Check food labels so you can avoid trans fats (trans fatty acids), synthetic fats found in many processed foods. Load up on fruits and veggies and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. If you’re overweight, make a point to cut calories to reach an ideal weight.
• Get moving. Exercise for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week to drop triglyceride levels.
• Pass on alcohol. Drinking alcohol can really affect triglyceride readings. In fact, the American Heart Association says drinking even a little bit can really boost your levels. If your triglycerides are high, cut back as much as you can, or eliminate alcohol altogether.