High Triglycerides Are Now
Considered an Independent Risk
Factor for Heart Disease.
What Should You
And I Do About It?

High Triglycerides Increase Risk For CHD

Researchers have believed for some time that elevated triglycerides are an indication of increased risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). Recent research indicates that high triglyceride levels are themselves an independent risk factor.

That is, high triglycerides are more than an indication that a patient is in a higher risk category for heart disease.

High levels are dangerous.

Just how dangerous is uncertain. Medical researchers continue to debate the issue. But it is important that you get your triglycerides down.

What is not debatable is the fact that triglycerides are taking a more central position in heart health concerns. More and more people are rightly troubled that their triglycerides are too high and that something must be done about it.

You and I are concerned with heart disease. Even more, we are concerned with optimal heart health. That being true we cannot ignore high triglycerides. Let’s talk about triglycerides for a few minutes. To do so we will look at the following points:

  • What Are Triglycerides?
  • How High Is Too High?
  • Hypertriglyceridemia as a Risk Factor
  • What Causes High Triglycerides?
  • Triglyceride Reducing Diets
  • Other Treatments for Hypertriglyceridemia
  • Hydrogenation
  • The Problem with Trans Fats
  • Essential Fatty Acids
  • Omega-3 and Omega-6
  • Omega-3 and Triglycerides

It is a lot to cover. Don't feel like you have to read it all in one sitting. Read some. Digest it. Then come back and visit again.

As you read each section you will be reading an overview of a particular topic. Each section contains links. These links take you to pages with more detail on that subject.

Before we get too far into it... Do you have your own story to tell about triglycerides or other heart health issues? Have you learned something in your reading that you would like to share? If so you can have your own webpage right here on this site.

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Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…

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Did you know that these health problems – as well as more serious chronic diseases – can be the result of …

  • Your body holding on to too many toxins?
  • And chronic inflammation?
  • And pH and blood sugar imbalance?
  • And your elimination organs not working well?
  • And poor nutrition?
  •  And foods that stress your system?

Many people have come to realize this and have made changes to recapture their health. We have a great – FREE – resource we want you to have. Simply click the link below.

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What Are Triglycerides?

A great place to begin our discussion is with an understanding of what triglycerides are. Triglycerides are a type of lipid. Lipids include numerous fatlike compounds that are insoluble in water. They are also less dense than water. But they are soluble in organic compounds.

Some lipids consist of a glycerol molecule with one, two or three fatty acids attached to it. As indicated by their names…

  • Monoglycerides are composed of a glycerol molecule with one (mono) fatty acid chain.
  • Diglycerides have two fatty acid chains per glycerol molecule.
  • Triglycerides have three fatty acid chains.

All three types are classified as esters which are compounds created by the reaction between acids and alcohols releasing water as a byproduct. In the case of triglycerides the attached fatty acid chains may all be of the same type or three different types.

O.K. So you do not live in the complex world of organic chemistry. Either do I.

It is enough to know that triglycerides compose the most common form of fats in foods and in the body.

Triglycerides, like cholesterol, should not immediately be branded as bad. They are necessary for survival and are the natural byproducts of the body's daily functioning.

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fats (lipids) exist. They account for about 95 percent of the body's fatty tissue. They can be derived from fats consumed in the foods we eat. Or they can be converted from other food sources like carbohydrates.

Immediately after we eat triglycerides appear in the blood as the major component of chylomicrons. These are microscopic lipid particles common in the blood during fat digestion and assimilation

Normally these triglycerides are stripped of fatty acids as they pass through the various body tissues. Within 2 or 3 hours of the meal the liver takes up the remaining chylomicrons. The triglycerides that remain are re-packaged as VLDL.

When we consume more calories than our body immediately needs the...

Excess calories are converted to triglycerides.

Then they are transported to fat cells for storage. When the body has need of additional energy, like between meals, hormones trigger the release of these stored fats which rush to fill the energy gap. It is a wonderful system providing sustained energy release without us even thinking about it.

Unfortunately, as people get older and heavier, triglycerides, along with cholesterol levels tend to rise. When levels rise significantly higher than normal some health problems can also develop.

Triglycerides that exist in the bloodstream produce a negative impact on heart health. While in the blood stream they are packaged with small amounts of cholesterol and protein. They are then known as VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein).

Under certain conditions these produce LDL (low-density lipoprotein) otherwise known as bad cholesterol. Unfortunately high levels of triglycerides and LDL usually coexist with low levels of HDL. HDL is the healthy cholesterol.

How High Is Too High?

Triglycerides are necessary for survival and are at the core of our bodies’ energy store and transfer. But as many areas of our reality tell us, more is not necessarily better. We already know this in regard to triglycerides. But how high is too high?

The accepted position on normal triglyceride levels has been anything under 200 mg/dL. More recent opinions put the normal level under 150 mg/dL.

The shift has come about in part because triglyceride levels between 150 mg/dL and 200 mg/dL can function as a fairly strong indicator of some heart health risks. One problem in particular is the potential for atherosclerosis - plaque build up. If you do not know your triglyceride levels you can find out with a simple blood test.

To learn about the triglyceride blood test click here.

Hypertriglyceridemia as a Risk Factor

The debate continues concerning whether high triglyceride levels are merely an indication of other heart problems or if they are themselves the cause of coronary heart disease. Recent research is supporting the notion that..

hypertriglyceridemia is an independent risk factor for heart disease.

What is not debatable, however, is that high blood triglyceride levels indicate a serious heart health risk factor.

The mechanisms involved are constantly under investigation.

For more information on why high triglycerides pose a heart health risk factor click here.

It is certain, however, that hypertriglyceridemia is tied to atherosclerosis - hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis in turn is causally tied to a number of dangerous and potentially deadly health risks including heart attack and stroke.

Since high triglycerides are a health menace we should consider…

What Causes High Triglycerides?

So what do we know so far? We know that…

  • Triglycerides are the most common type of fat storage and energy transfer in our bodies.
  • Triglycerides are absolutely necessary for survival but that too much of a good thing can prove damaging and even deadly.
  • High triglycerides pose a problem shared by many people in our culture and that the problem has been growing rapidly in the past few decades.

But why do we have this problem and why is the problem becoming more severe?

The immediate - and rather general - answer that one could give is that our culture is changing and with it many of our habits.

It has already been indicated that as people get older and heavier triglyceride levels tend to rise. Both of these factors - and especially the latter - are changing in our modern culture.

People are living longer. The older we get the more health problems we potentially have. But people are not only living longer they are living heavier. This, however, is not necessarily a product of age.

Child obesity is on a sharp incline.

More children are fat because many of us eat more fattening foods and get far less exercise than our ancestors. Though many parents are obsessed with their kids playing sports...

Others allow their children to spend many idle hours eating useless calories and playing electronic games.Even many of the children involved in sports spend their off hours physically idle while eating food devoid of anything good. The result has been not only a sharp increase in obesity but also the early onset of such diseases as atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Excluding old age we have so far mentioned three of the most common causes of hypertriglyceridemia. These are…

  • obesity
  • poor diet
  • lack of exercise

We will come back to these in a moment. There are other problems that can work behind the scenes to cause triglyceride levels to rise. Many of these can be divided nicely into two categories, medical conditions and medications.

Medical Conditions

There are a number of medical conditions that are causally related to hypertriglyceridemia. Some of these include…

  • kidney disease
  • liver disease
  • familial hypertriglyceridemia

The latter is genetically influenced and therefore not a result of lifestyle choices.

Other conditions are, however, influenced by factors that are a product of our choices. Too much alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage. Pregnancy can also cause triglyceride levels to rise.

The cause of pregnancy is beyond the scope of this website. I will leave further research on that matter in your capable hands.

Medications

Closely related to disease is the use of medications. While treating some medical conditions, medication choices often have a negative impact on other aspects of our health.

Some medications do cause triglycerides to rise. The good news is that normally triglyceride levels return to their previous state when the medication is no longer needed.

The same can be said about disease. The reversal of the medical condition - we can't call pregnancy a disease - usually results in triglycerides returning to 'normal' (i.e. where they were before the condition occurred). For more detailed information on the...

Causes of elevated triglycerides use this link.

We promised to return to obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise.

Not too much needs to be said about exercise except get some. Exercise, among other things, burns fat. Fat is our natural energy store. Triglycerides are fat. But the other two factors need a bit more copy space.

Obesity and diet are often closely related. It is true many people have conditions that lead to obesity. But for a significant number the primary condition is a poor diet - and of course no exercise.

Obesity is not on the rise because our genetic structures have changed. We are heavier because our environment has changed and with it our decisions.

Simply put, we have decided to eat differently. Which brings us to the topic of…

Triglyceride Reducing Diets

If you are thin that does not mean you are off the hook concerning diet. Many of us have deplorable diets and still maintain a relatively thin physique. However poor diets are having other impacts to health not necessarily visible on the outside.

Hypertriglyceridemia is one of those conditions greatly influenced by diet. In fact for most people...

A strict diet is all that is necessary to reduce triglycerides.

Though that may not sound like good news, it is. Often we have the ability to bring our triglyceride levels into the healthy range without medications or doctor visits.

It was noted above that triglycerides are the primary form of fat storage in the body. They are also a common type of fatty acid in the foods we eat. If that is not enough other foods like carbohydrates are converted to triglycerides.

What are we to do? Return to a healthy diet.

Use the following links for particulars...

Reduce triglycerides by avoiding certain foods.

Which foods to eat for reducing triglycerides

Use the above links for more detailed information. Suffice it to say at this point that changing our diet is the place to start in the battle to lower triglycerides - as well as cholesterol.

Other Treatments for Hypertriglyceridemia

In the event diet and exercise are not enough other treatment becomes necessary. If elevated triglyceride levels are caused by some other medical condition then the underlying ailment needs to be addressed by your doctor.

Once the 'secondary' condition is successfully treated triglyceride levels normally return to their pre-disease state.

In the absence of other causal medical conditions there are medications that are very effective in reducing triglycerides. These, of course, must be prescribed by your doctor.

Along with medication your doctor will also prescribe a triglyceride lowering diet and exercise. He or she should suggest eating more cold water fish like salmon and possibly taking fish oil supplements.

For some detail on the treatments your doctor might prescribe click here.

Hydrogenation

We are not yet through with diet. We need to consider for a moment, not only the types of foods we eat, but what goes into the foods we buy.

If we all lived on farms that practiced organic methods we would be better off. However the reality is the vast majority of us do not grow our own food. We are therefore at the mercy of those who…

  • produce
  • alter
  • package
  • store
  • ship

… everything we eat. Nutrition is not the primary concern of most manufacturers. They want to sell their products. This is not the place for a discussion on nutrition and the quality of the foods we purchase. But there are some manufacturing practices which are worthy of noting in relation to triglycerides. We will consider one huge one – hydrogenation.

In the middle of the twentieth century scientists began experimenting with ways to substitute unsaturated fats for saturated fats. As you and I know saturated fats are less healthy than unsaturated fats.

The problem that confronted these scientists was three-fold.

  • Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature
  • Unsaturated fats tend to have a short shelf-life - which is a problem for manufacturers.
  • Consumers were used to products that acted and tasted a certain way.

The solution to these problems is a process called hydrogenation.

In short the process involves adding hydrogen to a fatty acid that has room to receive more hydrogen.

When a fatty acid has as many hydrogen atoms as it can possible have it is said to be saturated. Usually the hydrogenation process attempts to approach saturation but not quite reach it. It is then referred to as partially-hydrogenated.

Since the end product is not saturated it appears to be healthier than saturated products like butter and lard. The products using partially hydrogenated unsaturated oils are solid or semi-solid at room temperature and have a longer shelf-life than the original oils.

To add to the benefits such products are relatively inexpensive when one factors in the fact that less will be loss to spoilage. Everybody is happy. Nirvana has arrived.

For a more complete look at hydrogenation use this link.

A few sentences get a bit technical but the read is well worth it.

Today partially hydrogenated products are ubiquitous. One does not have to read many labels on the boxes in the pantry to find those well known words 'partially-hydrogenated'. We even find them neatly tucked among other encouraging words like ‘whole wheat’ or 'whole grain'.

However there is more to the story of hydrogenation than just hydrogen atoms. During the process (which involves high heat) some of the chemical bonds that do not receive hydrogen are altered just the same. The link above takes you to a discussion that will make things a bit more clear.

Suffice it to say for now that the change involves transforming 'cis' bonds into 'trans' bond. That is 'trans' as in trans-fats. If I haven’t had your attention to this point I should have it now.

Most people today are aware that trans-fats are bad and that we should avoid them. The irony here is that the initial attempt to create products healthier than saturated fats actually resulted in the opposite effect.

The problem is trans-fats are so commonly used in our packaged foods today that it is difficult to avoid them. As a result we are potentially damaging our heart health every time we reach for that box of crackers.

The Problem with Trans Fats

It is clear now that the hydrogenation process produces a dangerous by-product known as trans-fats. We might suspect that since hydrogenation uses high heats to produce its products that heating unsaturated oils at any time has the potential for creating trans-fats. Indeed our suspicion would be correct. This is one reason that healthy diet recommendations usually discourage frying foods. This is especially true when the oil is used more than once.

But assuming trans-fats are everywhere in our diets we still need to ask…

"What’s the big deal?"

Trans-fatty acids pose such a serious health risk that many researches have posited the idea that the all-pervading consumption of trans-fats might have contributed to the...

Coronary heart disease epidemic of the 20th century.

One of the reasons for this is that trans-fats are thought to compete with essential fatty acids in metabolic activity.

Whatever harm trans-fats do in their own right they possess the additional trait of making essential fatty acids less productive. We will return to the topic of essential fatty acids in a moment. But for now we should be aware that even when we make efforts to consume plenty of essential fatty acids we are diluting our efforts by consuming products containing trans-fats.

Trans-fats tend to lower HDL (good cholesterol) and raise LDL (bad cholesterol). And as you may suspect they also raise triglycerides. This imbalance of HDL and LDL combined with increased triglyceride levels is blamed for many heart problems.

Use this link for more information on...

The problem with trans-fats

For now it is important to return to the topic of…

Essential Fatty Acids

Have you noticed that everything we have discussed concerning saturated and unsaturated fats, trans-fats and now essential fatty acids has to do with fats?

In spite of their negative image in society fats are an absolutely necessary part of our existence. As you have guessed, not all fats are the same. Essential fatty acids are the guys in the white hats. They are called essential for two reasons.

  • They are necessary for health.
  • The body cannot produce them and therefore they must be consumed in the diet.

In structure they are unsaturated fats of a particular kind. But they are more than that. Some essential fatty acids are deplorably lacking in our diets. Because of this we are exposing ourselves to a long list of chronic diseases. This does not fit well with our pursuit of optimal heart helath.

You can read more about essential fatty acids on another page. That link is provided below. But first a few general comments will be helpful.

You have rightly assumed that a proper balance of essential fatty acids is imperative for lowering elevated triglycerides.

In fact treatments with omega-3 supplementation have become an accepted standard for lowering triglycerides.

However, proper essential fatty acid intake has broad implications for other heart health issues such as…

  • sudden cardiac death
  • hypertension
  • atherosclerosis
  • cholesterol

Beyond heart health essential fatty acid supplementation has been used to treat…

  • anorexia nervosa
  • ADHD
  • osteoporosis
  • diabetes
  • eye disease
  • certain skin conditions
  • allergies
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • tuberculosis
  • cancer

In the fight against heart disease there has rightly been much attention given to adjusting the diet. However for many, the focus has been on what foods - such as fat - to avoid. This emphasis is good but incomplete. We should also focus on what foods, including fats, are healthy to consume. Essential fatty acids provide one very important example of this.

You can find more information on essential fatty acids by clicking here.

Omega-3 and Omega-6

Omega-3, the more commonly known of the two, exists in three forms:

  • ALA - alpha-linolenic acid
  • EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid
  • DHA - docosahexaenoic acid

Omega-6 exists as…

  • LA - linoleic acid
  • GLA - gamma-linolenic acid
  • ARA - arachidonic acid

There is good news and bad news about these two essential fats.

The bad news is that normally we get too much omega-6 and not nearly enough omega-3. Further the bad news is that this imbalance is responsible for numerous chronic health disorders.

Buried in the bad news is the good news. The good news is, by adjusting our intake of omega-3 and omega-6 we can often overcome these chronic health disorders caused by the imbalance. That means that many of the health concerns mentioned above - as well as others - can be effectively prevented and even reversed though careful diet and supplementation.

You can read more about omega-3 and omega-6 by clicking here.

Omega-3 and Triglycerides

We would not do our present topic justice if we failed to say something about the particular relationship between omega-3 and triglycerides.

There are several medical treatments to help lower triglycerides. These were referenced above. But when possible most people would prefer to lower their triglycerides naturally. This is where diet and exercise come into focus.

But if we sharpen our focus a bit more we find omega-3 occupying center stage.

The amount of research that has been dedicated to lowering triglycerides with omega-3 supplementation has rendered the topic almost incontrovertible.

In fact the evidence is so strong that even the...

American Heart Association is now willing to recommend omega-3 supplementation as a treatment for high triglycerides.

This is no light recommendation from an organization as conservative as the AHA.

Like the American Heart Association I think it preferable to consume omega-3 through the foods we eat. We should certainly make every attempt to do this. But it is difficult.

Even if you eat quite a bit of fish it may be impossible to get enough omega-3. If you have coronary heart disease or high triglycerides you need more omega-3 than you can consume in your food. The American Heart Association recommends 2–4 grams of EPA plus DHA per day.

That is why so many people take fish oil supplements.

It simply makes sense for those of us who desire optimal heart health.

Click Here to Get the Facts on Omega-3 and Heart Health


You may also want to see more detail on the effect of omega-3 and triglycerides levels. If so please use the following link.

For more on the relationship between omega-3 and triglycerides click here.

Let's Summarize a Bit

It is a bit helpful to boil down all this information into a short statement. So here it is in outline form:

  • Elevated triglyceride levels have long been linked to coronary heart disease.
  • Many experts consider hypertriglyceridemia not only an indicator of heart problems but also an independent cause.
  • The reasons people suffer from high triglycerides are many.
  • Hypertriglyceridemia is sometimes caused by other underlying medical conditions and the medications used to treat them.
  • But the epidemic of high triglycerides is most often traced backed to the changes that have occurred in our culture in relation to diet and exercise.
  • In short we have poor diets. The matter is made worse because of the processing methods used to make many of the products we buy at the grocery store.
  • Therefore dietary changes are the first, and in many cases most important, step we need to take.
  • An important part of this dietary shift is to consume a healthy balance of the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6.
  • The proper rule a thumb for most of us is to reduce the amount of omega-6 we take in and greatly increase our intake of omega-3.
  • In many cases this latter requirement will involve omega-3 supplementation.

If you need more Omega-3 don't put it off. Supplementing with Omega-3 may be essential to optimal heart health. And it does not have to be expensive.

Your best choice is a quality fish sourced supplement. It will be high in EPA and DHA.

Click Here to Get the Facts on Omega-3 Supplements and Heart Health.

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