You've probably heard plenty about LDL (bad) cholesterol and the need to control it to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). But there are other "bad" fats, or blood lipids, that harm blood vessels: triglycerides. Here's an overview on why these blood fats play an important role in your cholesterol and diabetes and what you can do to lower higher-than-normal triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are clusters of fat cells made from excess carbohydrate and fat we consume. Normally they are stored as fat for a long-term energy reserve; excess triglycerides are dense and clog blood vessels.
According to the American Heart Association, these are the standardized measures of fasting triglyceride levels:
Normal: Less than 150 mg/dl
Borderline high: 150-199 mg/dl
High: 200-499 mg/dl
Very high: 500 mg/dl or higher
High triglyceride levels result from several risk factors and causes, such as excessive intake of refined sugars and saturated fats, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, stress, and type 2 diabetes.
The degree of harm to blood vessels directly correlates to how vigilant a person has been with diet, exercise, and medication, says Joel Rosenberg, M.D., a cardiac surgeon in New York. "Patients with low LDL are not risk-free from cardiac damage if they don't exercise and watch triglycerides as well."
For people with diabetes, controlling blood glucose can help lower triglyceride levels because less excess glucose is available in the blood to be converted into triglycerides. The following pages address lifestyle modifications, medications, and vitamins and minerals that can help lower triglycerides.
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