Triglycerides: The most effective steps in bringing the levels down


Last Updated January 17th, 2020

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a form of fat molecule present in the blood.  The excess calories produced by the body are converted into triglycerides and is stored in the fat cells for later use.  Triglycerides provide the necessary energy when the body requires it in situations such as fasting or rigorous activity. Triglycerides deposits increase when there is the excess conversion of calories, which is not necessarily required for the body and may cause certain health problems.  

Some of the causes of excess accumulation of triglycerides include abnormal diet, low activity level, etc. Excess accumulation of triglycerides leads to obesity as well as other related health issues.

Triglycerides come under the category called lipids.  Cholesterol too comes under the lipids category but is completely different from triglycerides.  Triglycerides are considered a fat, which is stored in fat cells whereas cholesterol is a substance which is helpful in producing hormones and cell build-up.    

Both triglycerides and cholesterol are dangerous to the body when present in excess amounts and are known to cause plaque formation in the arteries. Due to this, the arteries become narrow and there is a pressure build-up causing hypertension.  Persistence of this problem may cause serious issues such as heart attack as well as can even cause a stroke. The excess amount of triglycerides in the blood is called hypertriglyceridemia.

What causes an increase in their number?

High levels of triglycerides may be caused due to many factors such as unhealthy diet by consuming large quantities of calorie intake, obesity, low activity level, type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, alcohol consumption, smoking, etc.

Diet:  An abnormal diet is the main reason for the excess accumulation of triglycerides.  People choosing foods containing high calories lead to excess calorie count, which is converted by the body into triglycerides leading to hypertriglyceridemia.

Obesity:  Abnormal increase in weight means more fat cells present in the body and due to this reason there are increased levels of triglycerides present in the blood.

Age:  Old age can be considered to be another factor contributing to increased levels of triglycerides present in the blood, which is quite common as it is highly difficult to stay active during the old age.

Medications:  Some of the prescription medications that we consume are also known to cause an increase in the triglycerides.  Medications such as steroids, oral contraceptive medications, as well as diuretics are well known for their ability to increase the levels of triglycerides.

Heredity:  Finally, heredity may be one of the causes of increased levels of triglycerides.

What happens if you have high triglycerides?

A high level of triglycerides may cause some serious health issues namely:

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the blood vessels due to the formation of plaques, which is a combination of triglycerides, cholesterol, calcium, as well as other substances.  Due to the formation of plaques, the walls of the blood vessels become thicker which makes the blood flow difficult and can lead to an increase in the blood pressure.

Persistence of this increased blood pressure may cause a heart attack as well as stroke, which are both life-threatening conditions.  An increase in triglyceride level is only known by undergoing a lipid panel blood test. This test determines the level of lipids such as triglycerides as well as cholesterol and if the levels of triglycerides or cholesterol are increased, the doctor may even order other tests to be conducted to determine the plaque formation caused due to increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol.  

Early detection of increased levels of triglycerides and cholesterol is crucial to avoid a life-threatening problem such as a heart attack.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a medical condition where the pancreas is known to become inflamed, which is caused due to the activity of digestive enzymes in the pancreas.  High levels of triglycerides lead to increased levels of chylomicrons. These particles are known to obstruct the capillaries. Due to this, there is a degradation of triglycerides and cytotoxic injury leading to inflammation of the pancreas causing pancreatitis.  This phenomenon is very rare and very few people are diagnosed with high triglycerides related pancreatitis.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a medical condition where the body is not able to manage blood sugar levels appropriately.  Diabetes is not directly caused by high triglycerides but can be considered as a factor which may contribute to diabetes.  High levels of triglycerides are known to cause insulin resistance where the body is not able to manage the insulin appropriately.  Due to this reason, there are abnormal levels of blood sugar leading to diabetes.

How can you reduce triglyceride count?

Eat a healthy diet

Eating a healthy diet is very important to manage the number of calories we consume per day.  It is very easy to have a piece of rich chocolate cake and enjoy the goodness of the cake, but the bottom line is that it may account for around 500 calories, which is very high and moreover, you may feel hungry very soon and would want to have more food after a short period of time.  

It is always advisable to consume more food with low calories as compared to the small amount of food with high calories. Consuming food containing lower calories not only fills the stomach but also provides the exact amount of calories the body requires. Due to this, there is a check on the conversion of calories to triglycerides and helps in maintaining the appropriate triglyceride level.

Lose weight

Weight gain is a big issue not only because it hinders your daily activity, but also affects the normal functioning of the body leading to several other associated problems.  Weight gain is again due to the abnormal diet choice where there is an increased amount of calorie intake more than what the body requires.

Due to this reason, the excess calories are converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells, which are hardly utilized in the future since there is more and more calorie intake on a daily basis.  Studies have shown that losing weight on a long-term basis is known to lower the levels of triglycerides in a big way.

Studies have indicated that losing just 5 percent of the body weight can lower the triglycerides levels by up to 15 percent. This lowering of the triglycerides is sustained even if the person regains the same weight over a period of time.  The bottom line is that a long-term weight loss will definitely do wonders in reducing the triglyceride levels and avoid many serious health issues.

Avoid Sugary foods

Sugary foods and sugary beverages contribute to a large amount of triglycerides accumulation.  Around 6 to 8 spoons of sugar intake are acceptable in a healthy person, but this may be high for people suffering from diabetes.  

People these days have a habit of opting sugary beverages and carbonated drinks regularly since it provides them instant energy. But the big problem is that they are just turning a blind eye to the fact that these sugary beverages and carbonated drinks not only contains a high amount of sugar content but also contain a high amount of calorie content.  

Due to the combination of both, there is an enormous amount of increase in the levels of triglycerides. Caution is advised even when consuming fresh fruit juice as people generally opt for this since it is healthy, but the consumption of fresh juice is also associated with high levels of sugar content.

Add more fiber to the diet

There are numerous advantages associated with adding fiber to the diet. Fiber is easily soluble and hence is easily digested in the stomach. Fiber is known to reduce the absorption of fat and sugar in the small intestine, which in turn helps to reduce the triglyceride levels.  

Leafy green vegetables, fruits, legumes, cereals, as well as nuts are rich sources of fiber and are easily available in the market. Studies have also indicated that low fiber diets are linked with increased triglyceride levels.   

Lower the carb intake

Sugar, starch, and fiber constitute the carbohydrates present in the food we consume such as fruits, dairy products, vegetables, etc.  Carbohydrates in appropriate values are very essential to provide energy to the body. Carbohydrates, when consumed in excess amounts, are again adding up to the number of triglycerides.  Studies have indicated that people following a low carb diet to lose weight are more successful not only in losing weight, but also were able to reduce the levels of triglyceride by about 50%.

Increase activity level

Increasing the activity level by either being active in the workplace or by regular exercise is known to reduce the levels of triglyceride since it will be utilized by the body in the form of energy.  If there is very little activity or no activity level, the triglycerides are hardly utilized and end up being accumulated in the body.

Studies have shown that people who are exercising at least 3 days a week and staying active at the workplace are known to have normal levels of triglyceride as compared to people who do not exercise and are not active in the workplace.  This is one of the main reasons why the triglyceride levels are high in people of old age since they usually have a sedentary lifestyle.

Eliminate Trans fats

Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids which are produced from the vegetable fats.  These are also called hydrogenated vegetable oil. These trans fats are generally utilized in all baking products from cakes, cookies, pie crust, etc.  These trans fats are used to increase the life of the product so that they can be consumed at a later date.

Trans fats are known to increase triglyceride levels as well as LDL cholesterol.  Both of these factors contribute to the risk factor of heart diseases and hence it is always advised to eliminate trans fat from the diet.

Consume Soy Protein

Soy protein is known for their various uses mainly due to the presence of isoflavones, which is known to reduce the cholesterol as well as triglyceride levels.  Since the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are reduced, it decreases the risk factor associated with several heart problems such as congestive heart failure, etc.  Due to this reason, consuming soy protein is very effective in reducing the levels of triglycerides as well as cholesterol.

Consume foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids, which needs to be consumed through diet.  Triglycerides and cholesterol lead to plaque formation and narrow the arteries which affect the normal blood flow.  Studies have indicated that Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce the triglycerides as well as the cholesterol levels.

Avoid alcohol intake

Alcohol intake is another factor contributing to the surge in the triglyceride levels.  Alcohols are rich in both calories as well as sugar content. As we have already understood that increased levels of calories and sugar are converted to triglycerides and stored in the cells.  A regular intake of alcohol drastically increases the levels of triglycerides. Since alcohol consumption can be addictive, a positive approach needs to be implemented to come out of this addiction.

Add unsaturated fat to the diet

Unsaturated fats are divided into monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat.  Unsaturated fats are known to reduce the levels of triglycerides by replacing other fats such as saturated fats.  Studies have indicated that saturated fats are known to cause the levels of triglycerides whereas unsaturated fats are known to reduce the levels of triglycerides as well as cholesterol, which are both responsible for the increased risk factor associated with heart disease.  Unsaturated fat sources include olive oil, avocados, fish, nuts, etc.

Manage insulin levels

Managing insulin levels is very important since it regulates the amount of blood glucose as well as the triglycerides levels in the blood.  There are numerous factors associated with insulin resistance. One of the factors can be due to the abnormal meal pattern.

It is quite difficult to follow a regular meal pattern due to the hectic life we have these days, but this abnormal meal pattern can affect the insulin levels and affect the blood sugar levels as well as triglyceride levels.  A regular meal pattern helps in reducing the process of insulin resistance and managing the blood sugar and triglyceride levels appropriately.

Consume tree nuts

Tree nuts such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, etc are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, as well as unsaturated fats.  Due to the multiple combinations of useful ingredients present in a single food, it becomes the best food to consume in order to reduce the levels of triglycerides.  Caution is advised while consuming tree nuts since they may cause an allergic reaction. Another issue is that tree nuts have a high amount of calorie content, so it is advised to consume only minimal amount of tree nuts to gain the benefits.

Try Natural supplements

There are some natural supplements available which claim to reduce the triglyceride levels.  Some of the natural supplements available include fish oil, fenugreek, garlic extract, guggul, etc.  Natural supplements can sometimes be beneficial and sometime may cause no changes whatsoever. It is advised to consult a medical professional before administering any supplements.


TL;DR?

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