What is your triglyceride level?
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Triglyceride (TG) is one of the substances measured in your blood. Why is it necessary to know your TG level? Because it is a measure of heart health and overall health. It is a measure of how malapot or sticky or fatty your blood is. If you have high TG level, then your blood is fatty or malapot. Same as what we discussed last week about good and bad cholesterol. If you have high level of bad cholesterol, then your blood is fatty or thick or malapot. If your bad cholesterol is high and TG is also high then it’s double jeopardy. What if your blood sugar level is also high. Naku, superlapot na ang iyong dugo. If your blood is thick, automatically your heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to all parts of your body, meaning it will increase blood pressure. Remember our heart does not rest. It works 24/7, even if we are sleeping, our heart does not sleep. Kawawa naman siya, pumping all that thick blood 24/7. Even if God designed our heart to withstand great stresses, it will get tired after some years of high blood pressure and will weaken. Result? Heart failure.
So what are triglycerides? Simply, these are fat- taba- from the food we eat mismo or manufactured by our body from excess sugar that we eat. Our body is sensitive to too much sugar in the blood because sugar makes the blood acidic- so it converts them immediately into fat and stores them in your waist, hips, neck, stomach and liver. So don’t be surprised when you have a blood test and your TG comes out high. Many friends ask why their TG level is high when they are not eating meat. If you are overweight, chances are your TG is high. Sugar comes in many forms – soft drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages, white bread, chocolates, cookies, etc, tropical fruits, white rice. In this regard, high TG in your blood can be a sign of diabetes or pre-diabetes. So don’t wait for your blood sugar to be elevated before making lifestyle changes. Changing tastes will be very difficult by that time.
Aside from excess sugar in our food, a high TG level maybe the effect of some medicines like diuretics, birth control pills, steroids and beta blockers. Take note of this, those who are taking medicines.
The normal triglyceride level is less than 150 mg/dl- the lower the better. If it is 10mg/dl, your heart would be very happy as it does not require extra effort to pump your blood.
How is TG different from cholesterol? Both are kinds of fat but TG is stored energy while cholesterol is used in body metabolism and production of some hormones and vitamins. In this sense, you will use TG when you are fasting or when you burn off more calories than you are eating while excess cholesterol will stick to the walls of your blood vessels or perhaps accumulate in your gallbladder. So you see it is hard to accumulate TG because who fasts nowadays? Our publisher perhaps.
Aside from making the heart pump harder, thick blood flows slower. Imagine this, a lot of fats, sugar, protein and additives are flowing in your blood – it’s like the Pasig River polluted with a lot of plastics and other wastes. Soon these wastes will stick to the sides of the river and later will completely obstruct the flow of water. Likewise, triglycerides or TG mixes with cholesterol, sugar, protein and other substances in the blood to form a thick hard plaque which will stick to the walls of the arteries making them narrow and inflexible. If you don’t remedy the situation, the artery will soon be completely obstructed. So aside from making the heart weak, a high TG can result in heart attacks or stroke.
So what to do to lower triglyceride level and keep it low?
1. Exercise regularly. At least 30 minutes physical activity daily like a walk during break time lowers TG and boosts good cholesterol.
2. Avoid or limit sugar and refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice and fruits.
3. Lose weight or maintain a normal weight.
4. Choose healthier fats. Instead of meat and eggs and dairy, eat plants and use vegetable oils.
5. Eat lots of fiber as this will reduce absorption of fat and sugar by your intestines.
6. Limit alcohol as this is high in sugar. Avoid alcohol if your TG is very high (500 mg and above.)
7. No cigarette smoking, not even second-hand.
Not new eh? Yes, that is the good news. Keeping your triglyceride low also keeps your cholesterol and sugar low. In other words, you only need to live a general healthy lifestyle and your blood test will be okay, your blood pressure and your heart will be okay and you will be okay. If however, you have difficulty following the above, then please consult your doctor.***
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” Isaiah 55:8