Cholesterol and triglycerides are often times mentioned together when talking about the health of your cardiovascular system, blood vessels, weight, and overall body composition. These markers show up on your blood panel and are great indicators of your health condition, showing you whether or not it’s time to make some changes in your lifestyle habits and improve your health.
With modern technology, it’s easy to measure certain aspects of our health, wellbeing, and even longevity, but not all results can be read the same. Especially since a plethora of different factors can contribute to the numbers you see on your data. High blood triglycerides are often linked to high cholesterol levels, showing up as a risk of heart disease, but the other way around doesn’t have to be the case. Your cholesterol can be high without the increase in your triglyceride levels, so it’s important to delve deeper into the subject.
All About Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a normal product of the human body that has an important role in building cells and producing hormones and vitamins. It’s a waxy substance that’s made in your liver but can also build up in your body through food, especially animal products and processed foods.
In adequate amounts, cholesterol is good for you and it can perform all of its important actions without any issues. When your cholesterol levels go up, that’s when your body starts reacting by activating its immune system and elevating inflammation, trying to get rid of the excess. This usually happens when your body takes in high levels of saturated fat and trans fat, making your liver produce more cholesterol than it normally would, causing a build-up in your body that can clog your arteries and cause heart disease. But high cholesterol doesn’t always have to be harmful.
Cholesterol exists in two main forms and one supporting:
- LDL – also known as the bad cholesterol, LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. When it builds up in your body, it starts forming plaque on the walls of your arteries, making your blood vessels narrow and your blood pressure go up. This poses a major risk factor for heart problems and other cardiovascular function disorders.
- HDL – also known as the good cholesterol, HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein and it actually absorbs the bad cholesterol and sends it back to your liver for detoxing.
- VHDL – this form of cholesterol stands for very-low-density lipoproteins which are tiny particles in the blood that carry triglycerides through your body.
The goal is to have high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL as high HDL lowers the risk of heart disease, lowers high blood pressure, and protects your body from other cardiovascular disorders. This is why you could potentially have high cholesterol levels but actually be healthy.
When you do a basic blood panel, you usually get a few different markers for your total cholesterol and it includes:
- Your total cholesterol levels
- LDL levels
- HDL levels
- VHDL levels
- Triglyceride levels
- Non-HDL levels
- The ratio between total cholesterol and HDL
The healthy range of LDL is less than 110 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL) for those under 19 years of age and less than 100 mg/dL for those over 19.
The healthy range of HDL is over 45 mg/dL for those under 10 years of age, over 40 mg/dL for men over 19, and over 50 mg/dL for women over 19.
It’s safe to say the higher your HDL, the better. And it usually comes with favorable blood triglyceride levels.
What are Triglycerides?
Now that we know its connection to cholesterol, we might assume they are the same substance. Even though they’re both fatty substances, triglycerides are made from fat cells and cholesterol is not. Triglycerides are fats that come into our body through the food we eat, usually coming from animal sources, vegetable oils, and highly-processed foods.
They are directly converted from the extra calories your body doesn’t use right away and stored in your fat cells. High triglycerides are usually an indicator of higher body weight and percentage of fat, increasing the risk for obesity and heart disease.
The recommended blood triglyceride levels should be under 150 mg/dL, but up to 199 m/dL are still considered manageable. Anything over 200 mg/dL is considered high and poses an increased risk factor for heart disease and inflammation.
The goal is to have low LDL cholesterol levels as well as lower triglyceride levels and it’s important to implement healthy routines into your daily life to support your heart health and prevent high triglycerides from showing up on your blood tests.
How to Lower Your Triglycerides?
When it comes to our heart health and digestion, there are plenty of things that are in our control and it’s crucial to focus on changing poor lifestyle habits to lower triglycerides and other unhealthy markers and prevent heart disease and overall inflammation.
Avoid Processed Foods
Even though it might seem an obvious tip, many people aren’t aware of the severe risks processed foods bring to your heart health as well as other areas of your body. Not only are they rich in trans fats and saturated fats that turn into triglycerides and build up in your arteries, but they are also full of artificial additives, colorings, sweeteners, and other substances your body recognizes as toxins and creates an inflammatory reaction. Keep your intake of processed foods to a minimum and help decrease inflammation in your body.
Limit Your Sugar Intake
Even though triglycerides are made from fats, they can also increase their levels by converting excess sugars. In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, high sugar levels can wreak havoc on your entire body and cause severe health complications, even indirectly leading to cancer. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your sugar intake to under 6% of your daily calories, coming up to around 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men. Pay special attention to hidden sugars in food as well as sugary drinks.
Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Not all fat is considered unhealthy. Omega-3 fatty acids are the beneficial kind of fat that helps increase your HDL levels and lower triglycerides as well as LDL. They are usually found in fatty fish and other seafood, nuts and seeds, as well as some vegetable oils like olive oil and flaxseed oil. Increase your intake of these foods and support the health of your cardiovascular system.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Whole and seasonal fruits and vegetables bring a vast variety of vitamins, minerals, and other powerful plant compounds into your body, helping reduce inflammation, lower your blood pressure and high triglycerides, promote healthy cholesterol levels, regulate your blood glucose, and aid in weight loss. They also improve your digestion and help you absorb more beneficial nutrients while being more efficient in flushing out toxins.
Include Powerful Superfoods In Your Diet
In addition to a variety of fruit and vegetables, there are some powerful superfoods that can have a strong impact on lowering your inflammation, helping you fight free radicals and their damage, and with it prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and high triglyceride levels. Some of these powerful superfoods include raw cacao, lucuma, yacon, chia seeds, and maca powder. They are rich in a variety of plant compounds, including antioxidants that protect your body from disease and help keep inflammation at bay.
Schedule Regular Exercise
Working out does wonder for the body, both inside and out. Not only does it help promote the health of your muscles, joints, and the whole skeletal system, but they support your cardiovascular health by positively impacting your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lowering your blood sugar, supporting fat loss and weight loss, promoting a healthy body composition, balancing out your hormones, and increasing your overall fitness.
Focus on Improving Your Sleep Quality
Sleep is crucial for your physical and mental health. It’s the only time your body actually recovers, rests, regenerates, and repairs. Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of health conditions including high triglycerides, high blood cholesterol, increased inflammation, hormone imbalances, and trouble with maintaining a healthy weight. It’s therefore important to implement healthy sleeping habits and improve your sleep quality to support your overall health and longevity.
High triglyceride levels are one of the main risk factors for a variety of cardiovascular conditions, seriously impacting your overall health and quality of life. Focus on implementing healthy lifestyle routines into your day and strive to keep those triglycerides as low as you can, supporting your health and keeping your heart as young and thriving for years to come.