Tackling triglycerides: 8 ways to solve a big fat problem

When it comes to heart health, the largest and most common form of fat in food and the bloodstream—triglycerides—has taken a back seat to "bad" LDL cholesterol and "good" HDL cholesterol in the public's awareness. That's changing as researchers get a grip on how triglycerides influence the risk of heart disease, reports the February 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

Triglycerides are in the danger zone when they slide above 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood. To keep triglycerides in check, lifestyle changes are usually the best place to start, notes the Harvard Heart Letter. These eight steps can lead to impressive reductions in triglycerides:

  1. Beware of bad fats. Cut back on saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy foods) and trans fat (in some fried and commercially prepared foods).
  2. Go for good carbs. Eat whole grains and cut back on sugary drinks and foods.
  3. Check your alcohol. Moderate drinking is good for the heart, unless you are a "responder" in whom alcohol dramatically boosts triglycerides. To determine if you're a responder, avoid alcohol for three weeks and have your triglycerides tested.
  4. Go fish. Omega-3 fats in some fish lower triglycerides. Have fish twice a week.
  5. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight, aim to lose at least 5% to 10% of your weight to lower triglycerides.
  6. Get moving. Exercise lowers triglycerides and boosts HDL.
  7. Stop smoking. Smoking isn't good for triglyceride levels (or anything else).
  8. Get help from a medication. Niacin, fibrates, fish oil, and cholesterol-lowering statins have all been shown to lower triglycerides.
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