3 Reasons Why Triglycerides Matter

DR. D artB1If you’ve been keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, there’s something else you might need to monitor: your triglycerides.

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in your blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. These triglycerides are stored in your fat cells. Throughout the day, hormones release your triglycerides for energy between meals.

So what does this mean for you and your health? Here are 3 reasons why monitoring your triglycerides are important:

1. It’s an important measure of heart health

Having a high level of triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease. High triglyceride levels may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) — which increases the risk of a heart attack and heart disease.

A simple blood test can reveal whether your triglycerides fall into a healthy range. Your doctor will usually check for high triglycerides as part of a cholesterol test (sometimes called a lipid panel or lipid profile). In order to receive an accurate triglyceride measurement, fasting for nine to 12 hours is recommended.

The national guidelines for fasting triglyceride levels in healthy adults are:

  • Normal: Under 150 mg/dl
  • Borderline High: 151–200 mg/dl
  • High: 201–499 mg/dl
  • Very High: 500 mg/dl or higher

Levels higher than 200 mg/dl are associated with an increase in the risk of heart attack, stroke and death. Levels higher than 300mg/dl are associated with pancreatitis.

But what causes high triglyceride levels? First, it can be genetic. Having a genetic predisposition to diabetes mellitus (DM)–a chronic metabolic disorder in which the use of carbohydrate is impaired and that of lipid and protein is enhanced–can be related to higher triglycerides.

Additionally, your diet can affect your levels. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates can raise your level of triglycerides. The body turns carbohydrates into glucose to use for fuel, but will store excess glucose as fat. Even if you maintain a low-carb diet, some people are still very sensitive to carbohydrates. This heightened sensitivity may cause their triglyceride levels to higher than normal.

2. It’s different than cholesterol

Triglycerides and cholesterol are both fatty substances known as lipids. However, triglycerides are fats; cholesterol is not. Cholesterol is a waxy, odorless substance made by the liver that is an essential part of cell walls and nerves.

Cholesterol also plays an important role in body functions such as digestion and hormone production. In addition to being produced by the body, cholesterol comes

Pure cholesterol cannot mix with or dissolve in the blood. Therefore, the liver packages cholesterol with triglycerides and proteins in carriers called lipoproteins. The lipoproteins then move this fatty mixture to areas throughout the body, leading to an increased risk of heart disease.

3. High levels may increase your risk for other medical problems

High triglycerides are often a sign of other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, including obesity and metabolic syndrome. All of these conditions include too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Sometimes high triglycerides are a sign of poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes, low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), liver or kidney disease, or rare genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy.

What’s the best way to lower triglycerides?

The American Heart Association recommends for those trying to lower their triglyceride level, to implement lifestyle changes such as diet, weight loss and physical activity. Although medication can help, triglycerides usually respond well to dietary and lifestyle changes.

Here are 8 easy tips to lower your triglyceride levels:

  • Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your triglycerides. Motivate yourself by focusing on the benefits of losing weight, such as more energy and improved health.
  • Cut back on calories. Remember that extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides.
  • Avoid sugary and refined foods. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour, can increase triglycerides.
  • Limit carbohydrates in your diet. Eating a diet high in carbohydrates can raise your level of triglycerides. The body turns carbohydrates into glucose to use for fuel, but will store excess glucose as fat.
  • Choose healthier fats. Trade saturated fat found in meats for healthier monounsaturated fat found in plants, such as olive, peanut and canola oils. Substitute fish high in omega-3 fatty acids — such as mackerel and salmon — for red meat.
  • Eliminate trans fat. Trans fat can be found in some fried foods and commercial baked products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. But don’t rely on packages that label their foods as free of trans fat. In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat a serving, it can be labeled trans fat-free. Even though those amounts seem small, they can add up quickly if you eat a lot of foods containing small amounts of trans fat. Instead, read the ingredients list. You can tell that a food has trans fat in it if it contains partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar and has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglyceride levels.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week. Regular exercise can boost “good” cholesterol while lowering “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides. Take a brisk daily walk, swim laps or join an exercise group. If you don’t have time to exercise for 30 minutes, try squeezing it in 10 minutes at a time. Take a short walk, climb the stairs at work, or try some situps or pushups as you watch television.

Now you know why triglycerides matter and some easy tips on how to lower your levels. If you have any further questions about triglycerides or would like to have your levels tested, please contact your doctor.

 

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Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186?pg=2

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/risk-factors/cholesterol/triglycerides.aspx

Scoop on Poop (Part 3): Diarrhea

dirreahea blog graphicDiarrhea – it can be deceiving. Although it may disguise itself as poop, it is not the most glamorous condition. In fact, this pesterer comes around quite often to many people.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea describes loose, watery stool. It often means more frequent trips to the bathroom and a greater amount of stool. In most cases, diarrhea symptoms only last a few days and can be treated with over-the-counter medicine.

Symptoms of mild diarrhea include:

  • Abdominal bloating or cramps
  • Thin or loose stools
  • Watery stool
  • A sense of urgency to have a bowel movement
  • In some cases, nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting

Sometimes diarrhea may last for weeks. In these situations, diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or a less serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

Symptoms of severe diarrhea include:

  • Blood, mucus, or undigested food in the stool
  • Weight loss or dehydration
  • Fever
  • Severe pain

What causes diarrhea?

The most common cause of diarrhea is a virus that infects the bowel, sometimes called “intestinal flu,” which usually lasts for two days. An unwanted visit from this troublemaker may also be caused by:

  • Infection by bacteria
  • Infections by other organisms
  • Eating foods that upset the digestive system
  • Allergies to certain foods
  • Medications
  • Radiation therapy

Diarrhea is also known to arrive after constipation, especially for people who have irritable bowel syndrome.

Types of Diarrhea

You are probably thinking, ‘Really? There is more than one type of diarrhea?’ While all diarrhea is essentially the same (loose, watery stool), there are a few situational types.

The first situational type of diarrhea is traveler’s diarrhea. Traveler’s diarrhea is a digestive tract disorder that is commonly caused by eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Fortunately, traveler’s diarrhea is usually not serious — it’s just unpleasant.

When you visit a region where the climate, social conditions, or sanitary standards and practices are different from yours at home, you have an increased risk of developing traveler’s diarrhea.

Being aware of what you eat and drink while traveling can reduce your risk of traveler’s diarrhea. If you do develop traveler’s diarrhea, chances are it will resolve without treatment. However, it’s a good idea to have doctor-approved medications with you when you travel to high-risk areas in case diarrhea continues.

The second type of situational diarrhea is antibiotic-associated diarrhea, which occurs in response to medications used to treat bacterial infections (antibiotics).

Often, antibiotic-associated diarrhea is mild and ends shortly after you stop taking the medication. In some cases, antibiotic-associated diarrhea leads to colitis (inflammation of the colon). The inflammation can cause abdominal pain, fever and bloody diarrhea, which may require stopping or switching antibiotic medications.

Treatment

If your diarrhea is mild and only a slight annoyance, you can treat it with an over-the-counter medicine. Common brand names include Pepto-Bismol®, Imodium A-D®, and Kaopectate®.

Other tips for managing diarrhea without medication include:

  • Drinking liquids frequently. Good options include:
  • diluted, pulpless fruit juices
  • chicken broth (without the fat)
  • tea with honey
  • sports drinks
  • Eating low-fiber foods such as:
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • noodles
  • ripe bananas
  • applesauce
  • smooth peanut butter
  • white bread
  • chicken or turkey without the skin
  • lean ground beef
  • fish
  • yogurt
  • cottage cheese
  • Avoiding foods that are:
  • greasy, fatty, or fried
  • strongly spiced
  • whole-grain
  • dairy-based
  • Limiting food or beverages with caffeine

Diarrhea can be a real nuisance, but the good news is that it is often a temporary condition.

 

So there you have it! – the scoop on poop! We hope you enjoyed this series and gained a bit more knowledge on how to keep your digestive tract and intestines healthy!

 

At MDcare4you, we strive to give you the tools you need to be a better you!

For more tips and health news, follow us on:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MDcare4you

Twitter: @mdcare4you

 

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diarrhea/basics/definition/CON-20014025

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/travelers-diarrhea/basics/definition/CON-20019237

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/antibiotic-associated-diarrhea/basics/definition/CON-20023556

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/Diarrhea/hic_Diarrhea.aspx