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When you have high triglyceride levels, there's a good chance you also have abnormal cholesterol numbers: specifically, low levels of HDL "good" cholesterol and high levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol. This combination increases the likelihood that you’ll have heart attacks and strokes.  

How Metabolic Syndrome Can Affect Your Future

With high triglycerides and abnormal cholesterol, you have two separate risk factors for heart disease, and you may have other risk factors:

  • High levels of blood sugar, called glucose
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess weight around your abdomen

If you have three or more of these five risk factors -- for instance, high triglycerides, low HDL "good" cholesterol, and high blood pressure -- you have metabolic syndrome. That’s not a disease, but it’s a signal to you and your doctor that you have twice the chance of developing heart disease compared to people without risks.

What’s more, having metabolic syndrome makes you five times more likely to develop diabetes.

Healthy Choices That Do Double Duty -- or More

Making a few healthy choices every day can protect you from these life-threatening conditions.  Altering any habit probably won’t be an easy choice at first, but as you build healthier habits, keep this in mind: Most of the actions below help improve more than one problem. That means, if you have several risk factors, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck -- double rewards for the efforts you make.  

Move your body. Any activity that gets your heart beating faster and makes you feel a little winded is good for your heart. Choose something you enjoy and can stick with -- you need to be consistent to see results. When you meet your goal of at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days each week, you’ll: 

  • Improve HDL "good" cholesterol
  • Lower high blood sugar
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower triglycerides 
  • Reduce belly fat

Limit how often you eat foods high in saturated fat -- high-fat meats, cheeses and other milk-products, packaged foods, and baked goods. Keep introducing healthier fats to your day, until you’ve developed a healthier menu.

  • Choose lean ground beef and lean cuts, like the “loins.”
  • Eat more chicken and turkey.
  • Add a few meatless meals to your weekly menu – that could be something as comforting as whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce or a hearty bean chili.
  • Choose 1% or skim for milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
  • Use vegetable oils.

Since saturated fat drives up LDL "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides, substituting healthier fats can help lower both their levels. You may also find you lose weight and improve your blood pressure and blood sugar.

Choose foods high in fiber. Many foods that you consider healthy have fiber: Most fruits, colorful vegetables, and whole grains. Help yourself to oranges, pears, Brussels sprouts, carrots, beans, and oats -- all excellent sources of fiber. It’s worth it to train your taste buds because eating more fiber:

  • Helps remove LDL "bad" cholesterol from your body
  • Lowers triglycerides
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Reduces your risk of developing diabetes (and helps you manage blood sugar if you already have diabetes)
  • May help you lose weight