When Supplements Make Sense
Not everyone with an elevated cholesterol level needs to take a statin. There are ways to achieve moderate lowering of cholesterol levels without using such drugs.
If you are basically healthy, and a formal assessment of your cardiovascular risk places you in a low-risk groupor at least shows that your risk is not high enough to warrant statin therapythen non-prescription cholesterol lowering makes good sense.
Lets review some of the commonly used non-prescription means of lowering cholesterol.
Add More Fiber To Your Diet
Fiber is the part of your food that isnt digested, and its important because it helps you feel full. According to a study published in February 2019 in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition, dietary fiber can reduce the risk of high triglycerides in young to middle-aged adults who are overweight or obese. In general, fiber-rich foods also have carbohydrate content that is more complex and can lead to more gradual absorption by the body, which can also help temper the triglyceride increase that occurs after meals, says Michael Wesley Milks, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Fiber is found in whole grains and nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Increased Risk Of Pancreatitis
Severely elevated triglycerides is the third most common risk factor for pancreatitis but causes only around 4% of all cases. Gallstones and alcoholism are much more common, comprising approximately 70% of all cases.56
Individuals with triglycerides above 1,000 mg/dL have a 5% chance of developing pancreatitis, and that increases to 10 to 20% for levels above 2,000 mg/dL . For reference, the general population risk of pancreatitis is just 0.5%.57
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Limit Your Added Sugar
You know that too much of the sweet stuff is bad news, and thats definitely the case here. When youre eating sugary foods, its easy to end up chowing down on more calories than your body needs.
The excess will be turned into triglycerides, which can lead to serious trouble:One 15-year study found that people who got 25 percent of their calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who ate significantly less.
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
/11lower Your Carb Intake
Just like the added sugar, extra carbs in your diet also get converted into triglycerides. Low carb diet has been linked to lower triglyceride levels.
Studies have found that people getting a lower number of calories from carbs had lower triglyceride levels as compared to people who received more calories from carbs.
People who were kept on a low carb diet for one year lost more weight and had lower triglyceride levels as compared to people who had a high carb diet, finds a study.
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Know The Dangers Of Trans Fats
Trans fats are dangerous for your heart, because they raise low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The chief culprit youll see on product labels is partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fats are the result of adding hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to increase shelf life. This may make some baked and fried foods taste better, but trans fats are very unhealthy, particularly for people with high triglycerides. In fact, trans fats should make up less than 1 percent of your total calories, according to the World Health Organization. Check your food labels: If a food contains trans fats or hydrogenated oils, leave it on the shelf.
Exercise On Most Days
Engaging in moderate exercise can help raise your HDL cholesterol while boosting your overall cardiovascular health. If youre fairly sedentary now, start with small amounts, working your way up to 30 minutes of exercise five times each week. If you prefer more vigorous aerobic exercise, 20 minutes three times a week will suffice.
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How To Lower Your Triglycerides Level
Typically, there aren’t any symptoms of high triglycerides. That’s why doctors do a blood test also called a lipid panel or lipid blood test to check your triglyceride levels, along with your cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults have this test done every four to six years, and more frequently if you have a family history of heart disease.
- Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter is a normal level of triglycerides
- Between 150 to 199 mg/dL is considered borderline high
- Between 200 to 499 mg/dL is considered high
- Above 500 mg/dL is considered very high
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are associated with higher triglycerides, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
Unless a person has very high triglycerides or a history of heart problems, lifestyle changes are the first option to lower triglycerides, says Patel. These include exercising, drinking less alcohol, managing your weight, and dietary changes. For instance, losing 5% to 10% of your weight can lead to a 40 mg/dL reduction in triglycerides, according to a July 2011 study in Diabetes Care.
Medications, such as statins, fibrates, and niacin, can also help lower triglycerides by either preventing your body from making more triglycerides or decreasing the absorption of fat from food, Patel says. If your triglycerides are over 500, then medication is typically prescribed, due to the risk of pancreatitis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Why Should I Care About High Lipids
High lipids, whether it be elevated triglycerides or cholesterol, are well-known risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Excess cholesterol can be deposited and accumulated on your blood vessels, for instance, your coronary arteries or vessels to your heart. When this happens it can lead to the formation of a plaque. The plaque can narrow your vessels. It can also rupture and lead to a blood clot. This blood clot can block your artery, causing a heart attack or stroke.
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Reduce Your Intake Of Saturated And Trans Fats
Adopt and follow a healthy diet thats low in saturated and trans fats. A diet high in these fats can raise levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood.
Saturated fat is usually solid at room temperature. Its found in animal products such as meat and dairy, but also in palm oil, coconut oil and full-cream milk. Read more about saturated fat-rich foods here.
Trans fats are found in store-bought baked goods, snack foods and deep-fried foods. There is strong evidence that trans fats increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood, while decreasing levels of HDL cholesterol.
Some foods contain cholesterol . Foods that contain cholesterol include liver, pate, kidneys, prawns and egg yolks. These types of food are not usually eaten in large quantities, so its OK to include them in your diet in small amounts.
Foods that contain saturated fats have a greater effect on blood cholesterol levels than foods that contain dietary cholesterol.
Increase Your Intake Of Unsaturated Fats
Studies show that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce blood triglyceride levels, especially when theyre replacing carbs in your diet .
Monounsaturated fats are found in foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are present in vegetable oils and fatty fish, as well as nuts and seeds such as walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
A 2019 review of 27 studies reported that while olive oil consumption does decrease triglycerides levels, it does so significantly less than other types of plant oil .
One older study analyzed the diets of 452 adults in a specific population of Indigenous people in Alaska over the previous 24 hours.
It found that saturated fat intake was associated with increased blood triglycerides, while polyunsaturated fat intake was associated with lower triglyceride levels .
To maximize the triglyceride-lowering benefits of unsaturated fats, pick a heart-healthy fat like olive oil and use it to replace other types of fat in your diet, such as trans fats or highly processed vegetable oils .
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can decrease blood triglyceride levels, especially when theyre consumed in place of other fats.
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Consider Cutting Back On Carbs
You dont have to go full keto. But some research suggests that lower carb diets are tied to healthier triglyceride levels.
How low should you go? In a 2006 study, people who consumed about a quarter of their calories from carbs lowered their triglycerides more than those who got more than half their calories from carbs.
Arent Whole Grains Supposed To Be Good For You
Healthy whole grains are fine ONLY if you are part of the population that has a blunt response to starches. In other words, there is no spike in insulin after a donut and bagel breakfast. Only 2 or 3 out of 10 people fall in this lucky group.
Makes you wonder why everyone is pushing whole grains like its the next best thing since sliced breadapple pie.
Whole grains are not for everyone. If youre reading this, chances are its not for you.
There are several studies that show people who switched from white, refined flour to whole grains significantly improved their risk for heart health and diabetes. True. If you have a high triglyceride problem, this is like switching from unfiltered cigarettes to filtered cigarettes. Scary analogy, but you get my point
Whats OK to eat:
- generous amounts of olive oil
Go ahead and add dark chocolate and cheese if you want some snack variety. And may be coconut oil if you want something new.
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Supplements And Medications To Lower Triglycerides
Cut Down On Your Alcohol Intake
When you drink alcohol, your liver breaks it down into triglycerides and cholesterol in your body. Alcohol consumption can also raise your blood pressure and make it harder to keep your weight in a healthy range.
Cutting down on beer, wine, and liquor can be a simple first step to lowering your cholesterol.
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Changing Your Diet To Lower Triglycerides
Limiting sugars, refined carbs, and alcohol is crucial to get the best results.
Diets higher in fiber and fish may also help to lower triglycerides. Those with severely elevated levels may respond better to low-fat diets, but this is not a universal finding.
When attempting to lower triglyceride levels, many find success through altering their eating habits. Here are the dietary approaches worth trying, according to science.
How To Reduce Triglycerides: Exercise Exercise Exercise
If you’re carrying around a little extra weight, get moving! To get in shape and lower your triglycerides at the same time, start a regular workout routine.
The goal should be 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week. When you exercise, be sure to break a sweat and get your heart pumping. With this routine you can cut your triglycerides by 20% to 30%.
New to exercise? Wondering where to start?
- Sign up for a dance class.
- Go for a swim.
- Find time each day for a brisk walk.
- Lift light-weight dumbbells
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Instead Eat Healthy Fats
Not all fats are created equal when it comes to triglycerides. Certain healthy fats actually make the body work better, according to the American Heart Association, so you do want to include them in your diet. Replacing saturated fat with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat has been shown to help reduce TG levels, Palinski-Wade says, adding that the connection is quite direct: Research has shown that every percent you decrease your intake of trans fatsreplacing them with monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fatlowers your triglyceride levels by the same amount. Eating avocados and cooking with olive oil instead of butter are great ways to add these healthy fats to your diet. Olive oil also contains another fatty acid that can reduce your heart attack risk by 48 percent.
What About Eggs Should I Avoid Them
For years, medical professionals have told people to avoid eggs because of their cholesterol content . I see it quite often, patients come to me and have swapped their protein-rich egg breakfast for a cold cereal higher in sugar and lower in protein.
The effect of the cholesterol we eat on the cholesterol content in our blood is not strong . In fact, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans even removed their cholesterol restriction in 2015. We shouldnt be eating 5-egg omelets every day with highly processed meats. But, 1-2 eggs paired with high fiber foods can be a healthy breakfast option to keep us satisfied until our next meal or snack.
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Will A Keto Diet Lower Triglycerides And Cholesterol
No, keto diets have been shown to increase cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet, however, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiac events.
The Mediterranean diet promotes eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats daily eating fish, poultry, beans, and eggs weekly reducing portions of dairy and limiting red meat.
Consider The Bigger Picture
Certain health issues can affect your triglyceride level. Type 2 diabetes, for instance, is a risk factor for high triglycerides. So are thyroid issues and kidney diseases like uremia.
If youre concerned about your triglycerides, it makes sense to see your doctor for a head-to-toe checkup to see if any underlying causes could potentially be at play.
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How To Reduce Triglycerides: Scale Back On Alcohol
When you unwind, do you drink beer, wine, or a cocktail? Alcohol may help you relax, but excess drinking is also one cause of high triglycerides.
How much alcohol is considered excessive? Too much alcohol means more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. There are even some people for whom even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglycerides.
For a healthy change of pace, try switching to sparkling water with a squeeze of lime juice. Another healthy alternative is a tangy herbal iced-tea blend it tastes great without added sugar.
Follow A Lower Carb Diet
Much like added sugar, extra calories from carbs in your diet are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Not surprisingly, low carb diets have been linked to lower blood triglyceride levels .
A review of 12 randomized controlled trials found that people following reduced carb diets typically saw a reduction in triglyceride levels at 6, 12, and 24 months. Across these studies, triglyceride levels decreased the most 6 months after starting a reduced calorie diet .
A 2020 review compared low fat and low carb diets. Researchers found that 612 months after starting their relative diets, those on the low carb diet had greater decreases in triglyceride levels than those on a low fat diet .
Following a low carb diet can lead to a significant reduction in blood triglyceride levels, at least in the short term, when compared with a low fat diet.
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How To Lower Triglycerides With Lifestyle Changes And Medication
- You can lower triglycerides by exercising, losing weight, and drinking less alcohol.
- If your triglycerides levels are very high like over 500 milligrams per deciliter your doctor may also recommend medication to lower triglycerides.
- Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease if your levels are too high, though many people effectively lower these levels with lifestyle changes and medication.
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Like cholesterol, triglycerides are a form of fat, or lipid in fact, they’re the most common form of fat in a person’s body. After you eat, fat and calories that aren’t immediately put to use by your metabolism are stored as triglycerides in your body’s fat cells.
“You need triglycerides in the body for an energy source,” says Sanjiv Patel, MD, a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center. “The issue becomes if you have too much.”
Here’s what you need to know about cholesterol and triglycerides, and how to lower your triglyceride levels if they get too high.