CONVERSATIONS FOR THE HEART – What Do My Cholesterol Numbers Mean?
Knowing your total cholesterol number is just a starting point. Unless the number is over 300 (suggesting hereditary high cholesterol), then the breakdown of the various types of fats in the blood are important.
Triglycerides are one of the fats that can be measured with the breakdown of total cholesterol. They are frequently ignored and most people don’t understand the importance of this number.
Ideal triglyceride levels should be less than 100 mg/dL (it is important to be fasting 10-12 hrs. before drawing levels). Closer to 50 mg/dL is the best.
If the levels are above 1,000 mg/dL it can cause serious problems (ex: pancreatitis which is serious inflammation of the pancreas). But even levels that are mildly elevated can be harmful. Triglycerides can buildup in arteries, organs (including the heart which can weaken the heart muscle) and can increase the risk of clot formation (by increasing platelet activation), which increases heart attack and stroke risk.
Other than genetic causes, high triglycerides can be frequently associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and usually occur with a low HDL level. Also, an underactive thyroid can be a factor. Kidney disease (nephrotic syndrome and kidney failure), alcoholism, gout, birth control, testosterone or steroid use, medications used for transplant patients, and other rare conditions that can cause high levels.
Fortunately, the following lifestyle changes can frequently help:
- Increase exercise
- Increase fiber and good fats (ex: Mediterranean diet)
- Significantly reduce bad fats (saturated and trans fats)
- Significantly reduce sugar (including processed grains i.e.: bread/crackers/cereals/cookies) and alcohol
Nutrients that can help:
Niacin, red rice yeast, omega 3 fatty acids, bergamot, flax seed, pantethine and possibly gamma-delta-tocotrienol. Remember to always consult your physician before starting or changing any medication or supplement routine.
Some people need medical treatment for high triglycerides. It is very important to discuss this with your health care provider. To schedule your cardiac consultation with Dr. Williams at The Center for Optimal Health in East Lansing call (517) 324-9400.
Stay tuned for more information on cholesterol and heart health.
Written by Alicia Williams, D.O.
Dr. Alicia Williams is an Integrative Cardiologist at The Center for Optimal Health and offers cardiac screenings for athletes age 16 and older. Call (517) 324-9400 to set up your cardiac screening with Dr. Williams at The Center for Optimal Health in East Lansing, Michigan.
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