Key to lower triglyceride: exercise

September 10, 2010 3:27:36 PM PDT
Thousands of people take medications to treat triglycerides, a blood fat. However, some doctors say people in the lower and mid levels of triglycerides may be able to control them with on basic change in their lifestyle.

The advice is the same one we hear for good health: get moving! You can take the stairs, walk the dog, stand at your desk instead of sitting, or hit the gym. Anything that gets you moving lowers your triglyceride level.

"Triglycerides can come down with exercise because they're an energy source, just like glucose is an energy source or sugar for our body. So anything you do that's exercise, aerobic, will help lower them," Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, said.

He said triglycerides go up when you eat carbohydrates or sugars, like those found in soft drinks, juice, white rice, white bread and alcohol.

Triglycerides are an essential fat in our blood and bodies. However, they are also a building block of cholesterol.

So the higher your triglyceride level, the more bad cholesterol your body produces. Moreover, this increases your risk of heart attack by promoting plaque build-up in your coronary arteries. "So the more you have, the more you're going to have the bad cholesterol in your bodies," said Kopecky said.

But because triglycerides are a source of energy, you can lower levels fast with exercise. Any exercise.

You see, when you exercise, your muscles use the triglycerides in your blood stream as a source of energy. The more you exercise, the more your muscles use, lowering triglyceride levels. "Sometimes we'll have patients come in with high triglycerides and we'll do a treadmill test on them. And we'll find their triglycerides will drop 50 points from the few minutes on the treadmill."

Dr. Kopecky says this is very important, because millions of people are on medication to lower triglycerides when all some of them need to do is change their lifestyle.

People with triglycerides over 400 may need to continue taking medications, but one study showed daily exercise cut levels in half. Besides exercise or mediation, doctors are also recommending cutting down on sugars and carbs.