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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 a heart attack or stroke.  

Other Risk Factors Are Also Important

Problems with cholesterol are not the only risk factors you should worry about. It’s important to be aware of and treat other factors such as:

  • High blood sugar and diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Excess weight
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking

The more risk factors you have, the greater your risk of heart problems and stroke. Taking steps to reduce any of these risks, including lowering cholesterol, may also help reduce other risk factors you have.

 

Healthy Choices That Do Double Duty -- or More

Making a few healthy choices every day can protect you from life-threatening conditions. Altering any habit, though, is not likely to be an easy task. But most of the actions below will help improve more than just 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

Talk to Your Doctor About Meds

Here’s good news: Many of the medications that treat abnormal cholesterol levels also help lower high triglyceride numbers.

Your doctor may recommend that you take additional medications as well, such as pills to lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. If your triglycerides are very high -- over 500 mg/dL -- you may also get medicine to reduce them.