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High cholesterol has received most of the attention for years. However, recently scientists have discovered that having high triglycerides is a much more significant indicator of cardiovascular disease than is total cholesterol. In fact, having high triglycerides can triple your risk of heart disease and stroke even if you have low cholesterol levels.
That being the case, it’s important to know how to lower your triglyceride levels if they are high. A number of ways are available to do that, but you almost always should begin by using three of the most-researched natural therapies. But first…
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood that are actually needed for good health. They are 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.
A simple blood test will determine your triglyceride level and here are the reference ranges (units of measurement are in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)):
- 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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How to Lower Triglycerides Naturally
If you’re wondering how to lower triglycerides naturally, first try eating your way to better heart health! Your daily diet should include a combination of foods with specific nutrients, such as those that are rich in antioxidants, like cranberries. And until you can get your triglyceride level down below 150 mg/dL, you may also want to augment your diet with nutritional supplements that provide therapeutic levels of these same nutrients. Drinking tea is another beneficial habit.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that omega-3 fatty acids can lower triglycerides in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). Sardines, salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts are excellent food sources of omega-3 fatty acids. However, most people do not eat enough of these foods to get the amount of omega-3s needed to reduce triglyceride levels. Therefore, supplementation is beneficial. Your fish oil supplements should provide 1000 mg of the combined omega-3′s DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) daily in order to achieve the recommended cardioprotective dosage.
2. Fiber. Studies show that low dietary fiber is associated with high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.[3,4] So if that is a reflection of your cholesterol score, increased fiber intake is a must. 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!) Good sources of fiber include beans, oatmeal, apples, bananas, pears, greens, and sweet potatoes.
Fiber can also be consumed in supplements but you should be careful to purchase supplements that do not contain laxatives or stimulants as these can be harmful. Good sources of fiber include inulin and psyllium. Inulin is a prebiotic that can stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria. Psyllium is a natural source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. For either of these products, it is best to follow the manufacturer’s dosing instructions and take the supplements with plenty of water.
3. Niacin. Niacin—vitamin B3—not only reduces triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, but also increases HDL (“good”) levels. Niacin works in the liver by affecting the production of blood fats. It is so well researched and the evidence for using it to treat high cholesterol is so strong that it has become an accepted mainstream treatment and thus is recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program, which is managed by the National Institutes of Health and its National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute division.
Foods that contain niacin include chicken, tuna, beef, turkey, halibut, and salmon. As a supplement, most patients get the benefits they desire at a daily dosage between 250 mg to 2000 mg (2 grams). Since taking niacin can cause flushing, you should start off taking a small dose at around 250 mg per day and increase the dosage as tolerated. Observe your flushing reaction. Most of the time the flushing reaction will subside altogether or else be greatly reduced after one to two weeks of taking the supplement. Others can ramp up fairly quickly.
Be aware that stomach distress, itching, and headache are occasionally experienced by niacin users. If you have liver disease, ulcers (presently or in the past), or gout, you will especially want to work with your doctor in using niacin therapy.
 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86: 943-49.
 Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2006 Dec; Vol. 25, No. 6, 480-485.
 Mayo Clinic
 Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Nov;21 Suppl 2:5-6.
Originally published in 2012 and updated.