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Triglycerides Raise Red Flags, But What?

Triglycerides Raise Red Flags, But What?

I enjoy those advertisements that show us a side of daily life we don't usually see, such as a family talking around the dinner table or a group of guys joking and joking in the locker room. Coffee in pretty porcelain cups could lead to a conversation about headache medicine or personal cleanliness between two women. It's possible that instead of the usual banter in the locker room, men may discuss things like foot care or that insurance that nobody but a duck can remember. Certain individuals can be so ecstatic about their cholesterol levels that they will approach total strangers on the street to boast about their own dramatic improvements.

Some of these commercials make us laugh out loud for their ingenuity, while others offer us an excuse to leave the room for more important things. Nonetheless, they do share a similar trait. They bring up very important matters that aren't usually brought up in conversation. One such issue is that of cholesterol levels. In a positive turn of events, cholesterol has recently received increased media attention. The hazards of excessive cholesterol are preached everywhere, from television advertising and news broadcasts to newspaper articles and even cereal packaging.

The dangers of smoking and high blood pressure are also being recognized as major threats to cardiovascular health. The public is becoming increasingly aware that triglycerides are harmful to cardiovascular health. Triglycerides may not be the most interesting thing to talk about in the ordinary locker room, but I think it's reasonable to assume that they're more important than the vast majority of the topics that tend to take the spotlight there. 

Whether we want to discuss it or not, most of us are aware of the gravity of these issues and privately wish they would never play a role in our lives or the lives of others we care about. Yet, the classic "head in the sand" approach is not exactly proactive and does nothing to avert prospective issues. If high triglycerides are a serious health issue, we should deal with it in a straightforward, Western manner.

It has been common practice for many medical professionals to disregard excessive triglyceride levels in their patients as long as cholesterol and other components of the lipid profile remain within the normal range. That's because a lot of people wrongly assume that elevated triglyceride levels have no effect on cardiovascular health. 

However, recent research is challenging that view. Middle-aged and older adults with triglyceride levels above 100 are at twice the risk of having a heart attack, dying from a heart attack, or requiring treatment related to heart health compared to those with triglyceride levels below 100, according to a study conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore (Journal of the American College of Cardiology, May 1998). While triglycerides below 150 are considered "normal," their significance must be reevaluated.

Triglycerides have an effect on more than just heart health. High triglycerides have been linked to a higher risk of ischemic stroke and TIAs, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (TIA). This was the finding of an eight-year research study comprising 11,177 patients with coronary heart disease and no prior history of stroke or transient ischemic attack. Triglycerides were much greater and HDL cholesterol was significantly lower in those who developed stroke or TIA later on.

There is a wealth of evidence suggesting that elevated triglycerides raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, either in concert with other risk factors or as a standalone signal. Unfortunately, there are many people who wouldn't care if a duck could say "Triglycerides" and explain the situation to them. The rest of us, though what about us? There are a few of us who are worried about this. So, what do we do?
Two Danish researchers in the 1970s found that Eskimo diets were exceptionally high in fatty seafood. They hypothesized that there would be an alarming rate of heart disease among this population. 

The contrary was true, as they discovered. Scientists found that Eskimo blood platelets were less sticky than those of Europeans and North Americans. The omega-3 fatty acids found in the Eskimos' diet were theorized to be responsible for their "non-sticky" nature. This research has shed light on the benefits of fish oils, and omega-3 fatty acids in particular, for lowering blood pressure and body fat. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have beneficial effects in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis, and more studies are showing the same.

Fish oils have many beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, including lowering blood pressure, preventing atherosclerosis, reducing blood clots, and improving arterial health. More specifically for this post, numerous studies have shown that the fish oils found in cold-water fish can help lower triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association has been advocating that healthy adults consume fish since the year 2000, and with good reason.

Is there any hope for adults who are already ill and battling with excessive triglycerides? Many scientists recommend increasing one's fish intake as a solution. In other words, up your intake of omega-3s. Supplemental EPA and DHA (omega-3) in the range of 2 to 4 grams per day may be beneficial for those with high triglyceride levels. You can't get enough omega-3s from food alone. If you're thinking about taking supplements to lower your risk of heart disease, you should talk to your doctor first. Any omega-3 fatty acid supplementation beyond 3 grams per day should only be undertaken under medical supervision.

Be honest with yourself. We are not eating nearly as well as we should be. Calories, carbs, and maintaining a trim waistline are only parts of the story. More omega-3 is what our heart needs. If you have a deep need to fantasize about fish, go ahead and give in. Increase your food intake. Fish oil supplements could be the answer if you're not fond of slimy critters. Maybe a talking duck isn't the answer. Maybe a rainbow trout with a microphone would be more effective in spreading the word. Although, I can see how that would backfire on the trout.

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