Triglycerides FAQs: What Are They? and Why Do They Matter?

When we are told to watch our “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels, “triglycerides” are bound to come up in the conversation. But what are they? And why do they matter?

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are type of lipids (fats) found in blood.  The body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides, and later triglycerides are released for energy between meals.

Why do Triglycerides matter?healthy-heart

High triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or the thickening of the artery walls, which can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

Also, high levels of triglycerides can be an indicator for uncontrolled diabetes, low thyroid and kidney or liver diseases.

What’s the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol?

Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood. In more detail, triglycerides store calories that are not used and provide your body with energy, while cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones.

Are triglycerides and food related? 

Junk food and foods high in calories are converted in the body to triglycerides. If a person regularly consumes more calories than he/she burns, triglycerides may increase.

What is considered normal?heart-day_625x350_41435665455

Doctor will usually check for high triglycerides as part of a lipid panel or lipid profile. A simple blood test can reveal if triglycerides are within in the normal range.

  • Normal — Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
  • Borderline high — 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
  • High — 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L)
  • Very high — 500 mg/dL or above (5.7 mmol/L or above)
  • Normal level in diabetic patients-  Less than 150 mg/dL

It is important to note that the American Heart Association recommends that everyone over the age of 20 should get a lipid profile to measure cholesterol and triglycerides at least every five years.

How can triglycerides be lowered?

  1. Avoid excess calories and sugar.
  2. Decrease the excess intake of egg yolk, full cream milk and meat.
  3. Increase the intake of olive oil and nuts
  4. Foods rich in Omega 3 would be beneficial (e.g. fish, salmon, tuna…)
  5. It is preferable to decrease your weight
  6. Practice exercise daily for at least 30 minutes
  7. Avoid alcohol intake
  8. Manage your stress levels

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