Measuring Triglycerides in the Bloodstream Can Tell a Lot About a Person’s Health

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Many people are concerned about their general health. There are many tests that a doctor will do at a regular physical, including checking blood pressure and weight.

They will also ask questions about dietary habits, exercise and whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol. Another common set of tests include blood work to check your level of cholesterol, blood sugar, and triglycerides.

By now, you’ve probably heard the term triglycerides as something that you should be concerned about. They’re usually discussed with cholesterol numbers. While both are fats, they have different purposes in your body. Unhealthy levels can have serious long-term health consequences. In fact, about 20% of Americans already have high triglycerides and another 33% have borderline high levels. But what are they, and why do they matter?

What Are Triglycerides?

The short answer is that triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates in your blood. When you eat food, your body converts the extra calories you don’t need right away into triglycerides. They are then stored in fat cells. In between meals, or when you burn more calories, hormones release the triglycerides from the fat cells so that your body can use them for energy. If you usually eat more calories than you burn, you may have triglycerides in your blood as well as stored in your fat cells. This is what causes the high triglyceride levels that are seen on a blood test.

How Do Triglycerides Affect Your Health?

Over time, high triglycerides can cause “hardening” or thickening of the walls of the arteries. This increases blood pressure, as well as the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart disease, and pancreatitis. They can also be an indicator of a common set of problems called ‘metabolic syndrome’. This is when high blood pressure, obesity, and high blood sugar are all present at the same time. This syndrome significantly increases your risk of heart disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

There are many questions which can be asked. These are some simple and common questions and answers that can hopefully provide more information. 

Q: How will I know if I have high triglycerides?

A: Quite simply, you’ll need to get a blood test and wait for the results.

Q: What can I do if I have high triglycerides?

A: Adopt healthier lifestyle choices. Start by cutting calories in your daily eating plan. Since extra calories are converted to triglycerides, reducing the calories you eat will force your body to use some of what’s already stored. Then get more physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes most days, but it doesn’t have to be all at the same time. A short walk at lunch or a few minutes of gardening after work can all become part of an overall activity plan that helps burn calories and reduce triglycerides.

Q: Are there any foods that can help lower triglycerides?

A: Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are very useful in lowering triglycerides. These include fatty fish like salmon, tun, trout, and mackerel. Additionally, fiber-rich foods and whole grains help reduce triglycerides. This includes oats, barely, beans and brown rice.

Q: Are there medications that can help?

A: If a healthier lifestyle alone isn’t enough to lower your triglycerides, there are medications and supplements that can help.Some people like to try supplements like fish oil before they start fat-reducing medications.