Health Alert: High Triglycerides

1 In 2 Americans Have High Triglycerides

While nearly everyone knows about the link between high cholesterol and heart disease, few are aware that high triglycerides also increase the risk of a heart attack, and that 1 in 2 Americans have borderline-high to high levels of triglycerides, recently reported researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Triglycerides are blood fats that increase with weight gain and are almost always elevated in diabetes and its cousin, Metabolic Syndrome.

And it’s high levels of triglycerides that produce high levels of cholesterol remnants like chylomicrons and VLDL, which growing research is implicating as another risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.

“Increasing evidence supports triglyceride concentration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” stated Dr. Earl Ford and colleagues at the CDC.

The scientists studied data and blood samples for 5,610 Americans ages 20 or older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys between 1999 and 2004. They found that 33 percent had borderline-high triglyceride levels (between 150 and 199 milligrams per deciliter) and nearly 18 percent had high levels (200 milligrams per deciliter or higher).

How can we lower our levels of triglycerides?

Drugs like statins often do not treat high triglycerides or have limited effect. Lifestyle changes like the Pritikin Program have been proven to have dramatic success for not only adults but also children, and within a few days or weeks.

Major reductions jn triglycerides

Among 4,587 men and women attending the Pritikin Longevity Center, triglycerides plummeted 33 percent in just three weeks. (New England Journal of Medicine, 323: 1142, 1990; Archives of Internal Medicine, 151: 1389, 1991.)

Among overweight children ages 8 to 17 attending the Pritikin Family Program, UCLA scientists found that in just two weeks, the children lowered triglyceride fats on average 39 percent. (Atherosclerosis, 2007; 191: 98.)

Key factors of the Pritikin Program that tend to lower triglycerides include:

  • Losing excess weight (even just a few pounds helps)
  • Exercising regularly
  • Increasing intake of whole or minimally processed fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes (beans)
  • Reducing intake of fatty foods
  • Reducing sugar and other highly refined and processed carbohydrates (such as white bread)
  • Eating more fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Drinking little or no alcohol

“Triglycerides increase 30 to 100 percent after a single fat-containing meal and can remain elevated for up to eight hours after eating,” warns Dr. Robert Vogel, author of The Pritikin Edge: 10 Essential Ingredients For a Long and Delicious Life.

Some drugs, like fibrates and niacin, may lower triglycerides somewhat, “but lifestyle changes are still the most effective means,” sums up Dr. Vogel.

“One episode of exercise can lower triglycerides for up to two days.”

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