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You’re a reasonable person, and you want to take care of your health. You know this means not ignoring your recent lab test, which showed you have high triglycerides. But… you’ve heard of the frequent debilitating side effects that prescription fibrates and statin drugs cause—muscle pain, weakness, liver damage, memory loss, and more.
Time to get proactive.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that are actually needed for good health. They’re important because they provide the body with energy. But when triglyceride levels become too high, the body begins to store them as fat, and the risk of heart disease increases.
Here are the reference ranges (units of measurement are in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to remember:
- Normal is less than 150.
- Borderline-high is 150 to 199.
- High is 200 to 499.
- Extremely high is 500 or higher.
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What Causes High Triglycerides?
High triglycerides can be caused by a number of factors:
- Thyroid disorder
- History of obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease
- A poor diet of carbohydrates, sugar, and/or alcohol
- Medication use such as hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, steroids, beta-blockers, diuretics, and Tamoxifen
So… why do high triglycerides matter?
Having high triglycerides is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High triglycerides can also be associated with metabolic syndrome—a combination of medical disorders including too much fat around the waist (40 inches or more for men; 35 inches or more for women), high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides and cholesterol levels.
Reduce High Triglycerides Naturally: 4 Time-Tested Strategies
If you’re serious about lowering your triglyceride levels, try these four natural healing techniques:
Step 1. Avoid starchy carbohydrate foods. Foods such as baked potatoes, white bread, and corn flakes can cause high blood sugar spikes and thus raise triglyceride levels as well as lower HDL “good” cholesterol. (Click here to read more about the beneficial effects of a Mediterranean diet plan.) And add more foods, such as cranberries, that are shown to lower triglycerides.
Step 2. Increase your intake of dietary fiber. Studies show that low dietary fiber is associated with high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL “good” cholesterol. The current recommendation for fiber is about 25 to 30 grams daily. Unfortunately, the average American eats about 10 to 12 grams of fiber each day. No wonder we’re sick!
Avoid trying to get your fiber from carbohydrates such as wheat breads. Instead, increase your consumption of beans, oatmeal, apples, bananas, pears, greens, and sweet potatoes. You can also take psyllium fiber supplements. Psyllium not only helps reduce high triglycerides, but it also helps curb appetite and stabilize glucose levels, which in turn helps reduce carbohydrate cravings. It is best to follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions and take the supplements with plenty of water.
Step 3. Start exercising. If ever there was a silver bullet or magic pill, regular exercise is it. Consistent physical activity boosts HDL “good” cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. Start out exercising 30 minutes per day for three to five days per week. You can take a walk in the park, go for a bike ride, or even play a game of hide-and-seek with your kids or grandkids. Start out simple and be sure to have fun! Find some ideas on how to get motivated to exercise here.
Step 4. Take omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, even in patients with coronary artery disease. Sardines, salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts are excellent food sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Most people, however, don’t eat enough of these foods in order to get the amount of omega-3s needed to reduce high triglycerides. As such, supplementation is the only way to obtain the needed amount of omega-3s each day. When purchasing an omega-3 supplement, read the label to make sure the daily intake of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) added together equals 1,000 mg, which is the amount recommended for cardio protection.
 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86: 943-49.
Originally published in 2012, this blog is regularly updated.