Triglycerides and diet

March 12, 2009 2:50:35 PM PDT
In addition to high cholesterol, there is another risk factor for strokes and heart attacks -- triglycerides. A recent report says the number of Americans whose levels of triglycerides are too high has doubled in the last 30 years.Clarise Woods didn't worry about heart disease. There was none in her family. But Clarise's blood was loaded with triglycerides, a type of fat that responds to cutting down on fatty foods in the diet.

"I'm a beef lover, so I changed to fish, turkey and I eat beef once in a while, but not like I did before, " Woods said.

Why should Clarise change what she eats? Because triglyceride fats in the blood are directly related to an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks, even when cholesterol levels are normal.

Dr. James Underberg is with N.Y.U. Medical Center. It turns out that only about 25 percent of people who have heart attacks have bad LDL cholesterol. In fact, if you look at people admitted to the hospital with heart attacks, many of them have normal cholesterol levels."

The normal triglyceride level in blood is 150. But heart disease risk starts at 80 to 90 in women and in men at 120 to 130.

High blood triglycerides can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. So is there anything you can do about it?

You can do as Woods did - reduce fat in the diet, cut down on red meats, eat more fish and chicken, eat more vegetables and exercise, which also can help raise the level of good cholesterol in the blood.

What pills do you take? Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy contain estrogens, which can raise triglycerides. So estrogens are a reversible cause.

"If triglycerides are elevated, it's important to think of what the reversible causes are before moving onto medications that treat elevated triglycerides," Dr. Underberg said.

There are several medications that will bring down high levels of these bad fats, but why take them if you can stop drugs which push the levels up, or change your eating habits? On that new diet, Woods dropped her triglycerides from a high of 500 to a normal level.

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