Lets talk triglycerides, cholesterol and heart health for a bit. My husband recently had a routine health screening at his work. The results came in the mail a few weeks later and it showed his triglycerides were through the roof, HDL was low and total cholesterol was slightly elevated. This news came as a shock to us because he eats a fairly healthy diet, is at a healthy BMI, doesn’t drink sugary beverages and is fairly active. My husband contacted the hospital that collected these labs to make sure there was not a mistake in the lab and they said unfortunately no, they remember commenting on how thick his blood appeared after drawing it and that it had milky deposits in it. After seeing a nurse practitioner he left with the instructions to cut his total fat to 15% or less, start a fish oil supplement and to lose some weight. The nurse practitioner wanted him to see a dietitian. He let him know he knows one pretty well and from there we came up with a plan.
The old school research suggests that dietary fat especially from animal products is what causes high lipid levels. Enter the fat free era,when a lot of our obesity problem started. Eggs were swapped out for low fat bagels, cereal and other high carb breakfast choices. This low fat phase caused a lot of people to become fat phobic. Thankfully now the recommendations are moving toward choosing heart healthy fats and even realizing that sugar may be causing us more harm when it comes to lipid levels than fats.
Here are 4 things we did to lower my husbands triglycerides over 750 points(to normal range) in 1 month:
Started a high quality daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplement- I researched to find the best quality over the counter fish oil supplement and I found this Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega fish oil supplement. I believe this may be what lowered his triglycerides, raised his HDL and lowered his total cholesterol so quickly. He takes 2 per day and it even suggests on the bottle that you can take up to 4 if your trying to be more aggressive with lowering your numbers. We also started red yeast rice which is also indicated to help lower cholesterol.
FOOD FIX: To make sure he was getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids we also made it a priority to eat salmon and tuna 1-2 times per week
Decreased sugar consumption- From all my research it really showed that lowering refined sugar intake and simple CHO were more important that dietary fat. To read more about this check out this article. My husband is not a soda drinker but does have a sweet tooth. He cut out all refined sugars, simple carbs and swapped them for fruit and complex carbs.
FOOD FIX: Morning frozen waffles were swapped for eggs, frittata, smoothies, oatmeal with chia and flax meal or homemade oat or almond flour muffins sweetened with honey. Sweetened coffee creamer was replaced with almond milk and stevia.
Increased healthy fats- Aside from starting a fish oil supplement we also focused on upping the healthy fats in his diet. Increasing healthy fats from avocados, nuts, olives, olive oil, avocado oil, fatty fish and seeds helps to raise the HDL or good cholesterol and of course they add great flavor to your meals.
FOOD FIX:For lunch I would pack a side salad most days that included nuts, olives or avocados. For snacks he swapped out high sugar fig bars with nuts, seeds or RX bars. We used avocado oil for roasting vegetables. Overnight oats were topped with almond butter and chia seeds.
Increased physical activity- Physical activity is another factor that can help raise good cholesterol and lower total cholesterol and triglycerides.Thankfully the weather has warmed up allowing us to come out from hibernation and be more active.
WORK IT OUT: 30-40 mins per day of activity is enough to promote heart health. Simply walking or jogging, anything to get your heart rate elevated. The key is finding an activity you enjoy that way you stick to doing it or even better finding a friend or family member to hold you accountable and exercise with you.
Your triglyceride number may not be something you know unless you have your routine physical and labs done yearly(by the way is important to have yearly even if you are symptom free). There are many markers that can be silently high, cholesterol and triglycerides fall into this category. When your triglycerides are elevated it increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. High lipids like this can be high due to genetic predisposition but many times diet and lifestyle changes while working with your primary care provider and/or dietitian can improve these numbers.