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The hearty truth about triglycerides

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Nutrition, behavior can protect against heart disease

By The Staff

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. In fact, more women die every year from heart disease than all cancers combined, including breast cancer. How do triglycerides fit into this picture? Just like cholesterol, high triglycerides increase the risk of developing heart disease.

So what are triglycerides? They are a type of fat. Triglycerides come from fats we eat and from the excess calories from carbohydrates, protein, fat or alcohol we take in. When we consume too many calories, our body converts the extra calories into triglycerides that are stored in fat cells for later use. Too much fat in the blood can cause blood vessels to clog increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. This is a condition also known as hypertriglyceridemia.

According to the American Heart Association, normal triglyceride levels are below 150 mg/dl, anything above that is high. Triglyceride levels should be tested, by taking a simple blood sample, yearly for adults 40 and older.

If your triglycerides are high there are things you can do. The primary way to lower high triglycerides is through diet and lifestyle changes. Begin by monitoring calorie intake and cutting calories if you’re overweight. Focus on making small changes that can help you lower calories and your triglyceride level. Reduce your total fat intake to no more than 30 percent of your total daily calories. Substitute unsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, and omega-3 fatty acids in place of saturated and trans fat. Reduce intake of butter, lard, creams, commercially prepared baked goods such as cakes or cookies and foods that can be traced back to an animal. Choose lean cuts of meat with the skin removed before cooking. Bake, grill or broil foods instead of frying. Substitute fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, tuna, lake trout, or sardines in place of hamburger and other red meats. Choose low-fat dairy products.

It is important to incorporate fiber, through fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread or pastas. Leaving the skins on your produce will help to increase the fiber content. Strive to be physically active 30 minutes to an hour every day. Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking. 

Every minute someone in the United States dies from an event related to heart disease. Don’t let another minute pass you by wondering if your triglycerides are putting you at risk. Celebrate your heart with smart nutrition and lifestyle behaviors today.

Amy Wright is a dietetic intern for Lincoln Trail District Health Department. Nutrition counseling is available by appointment at the LaRue County Health Center. Monthly classes are also offered for weight loss and people with diabetes. For more information, call 358-3844.