Heart Disease and Your Enemy’s Best Friend – Triglycerides

In the last column, we discussed about the harmful effects of bad cholesterol (LDL) on your cardiovascular system. I call LDL enemy number one. Today, we move on to our enemy number two – triglycerides.

Triglyceride is another type of lipoprotein which carries harmful fat-carrying particles. That means it is a bad one. It is the main constituent of vegetable oil and animal fats. It is a major component of chylomicrons and very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL).

Chylomicron is one of the microscopic particles of fat occurring in a ‘milky’ fluid composed of fat and lymph formed in the intestine during digestion. Next, VLDL is produced in the liver and later becomes the bad LDL.

Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body. In fact, almost all the excess calories you consume, whether from fats or carbohydrates, are converted to triglycerides and stored in your fat cells. Once at capacity these cells divide. If you ‘lose weight’ these cells decrease in fat content but never in number. This makes it easier to get fat again.

High levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream have been linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and the risk of heart disease and stroke. High triglyceride levels can
cause pancreatitis, a painful and potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas.

What causes elevated triglycerides?

Elevated triglyceride levels can be related to your diet (high in bad fats, carbohydrates and alcohol) and your genetic makeup. In addition, high triglyceride levels can be produced by several medical conditions including: obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hypothyroidism (low thyroid).

How can we manage high triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of CAD, stroke and death?

It starts with lifestyle modification. Your diet has to change. The key is to replace bad fats with good fats in your diet.

Bad fats are: saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products, some plant foods such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil) and trans fats (found in commercially packaged foods and fried foods).

Good fats are: monounsaturated fats (found in nuts, almonds, pistachios, avocado, canola and olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (found in seafood, fish oil, omega-3, corn, soy, safflower and sunflower oils). Monounsaturated fats have also been found to help in weight loss, particularly in reducing body fat.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid alcohol, lose weight, exercise, do not smoke, and control your blood sugar and blood pressure. Wow, sounds easy! Well, sort of. There is plenty of help around to achieve your goals. You and your doctor should work together. But you have to have the motivation to start the ball rolling.

This plan will help reduce LDL bad cholesterol, the bad triglycerides (friend of enemy number one) and increase HDL good cholesterol. Next week, look for more fodder for your healthy heart besides love and chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Who is your enemy number three?

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