After reviewing 500 international studies from the past 30 years, the American Heart Association (AHA) issued a statement last week offering specific dietary and lifestyle changes to significantly reduce high triglycerides, a harmful type of fat in the blood that can increase risk for heart disease.
What's different about the survey is that researchers teased out analysis of triglyceride levels from cholesterol levels (often lumped together in clinical study), and discovered that substituting healthy, unsaturated dietary fats for saturated ones, being physically active, and losing extra weight could decrease triglycerides by 20 percent to 50 percent.
"The good news is that high triglycerides can, in large part, be reduced through major lifestyle changes," said Michael Miller, M.D., chair of the statement committee in a statement. "In contrast to cholesterol, where lifestyle measures are important but may not be the solution, high triglycerides are often quite responsive to lifestyle measures that include weight loss if overweight, changes in diet, and regular physical activity."
To find out your triglyceride levels, you'll need to visit your physician and take a simple blood test (in a new clinical recommendation, the researchers suggest not fasting beforehand, which is traditionally done).
If you have high triglycerides (200 to 499 mg/dL), limit added sugar in your diet to about 100 calories a day for women and 150 calories a day for men, they said. Cut down on saturated fat to less than seven percent of your total calories, trans fats to less than one percent of your total calories, and alcohol altogether, especially if your triglyceride levels are greater than 500 mg/dL.
If your triglyceride levels are in the borderline to high range (150-199 mg/dL) or greater, the experts say to get moving - engage in a moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes per week. This can lower your triglycerides by 20 to 30 percent. Combine exercising with dietary changes and you can drop your triglyceride levels by 50 percent, the experts said.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a natural health physician and author, conventional medical recommendations for lowering triglycerides have long been to follow a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet, which he describes on his website as "dead wrong." He recommends a low-carb diet, exercise, and eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, sardines, black cod, and herring, or supplementing with fish oil.
The AHA statement was published in the journal Circulation .
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