Lifestyle choices have a big impact on triglyceride levels. For many people, good health habits are all it takes to keep triglycerides under control. For those who already have above-normal triglycerides, lifestyle changes can often bring them back down. If necessary, medication may also be prescribed. But even then, healthy habits play a key role in making the most of drug therapy.
These six lifestyle habits can help keep your triglycerides at a healthy level:
1. Weight loss--If you're overweight, even a moderate weight loss may reduce your triglycerides. To shed pounds, you need to take in fewer calories than your body burns off. You can tip the balance in your favor by eating fewer calories and getting more exercise.
2. Exercise--There is strong evidence that regular physical activity helps manage triglycerides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. This activity should be done for at least 10 minutes at a time, spread throughout the week. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include brisk walking, casual cycling, water aerobics, and doubles tennis. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting any exercise plan.
3. Alcohol--If you drink alcohol, doing so only in moderation helps keep triglycerides in check. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink for women. However, people who already have severely elevated triglycerides (above 2000 mg/dL) may be advised not to drink at all.
4. Smoking--Cigarette smoking is linked to both increased triglycerides and heart disease. If you smoke, quitting is one of the most important things you can do for your health. Get ready by picking a quit date, planning for challenges, and seeking support from family and friends. To double your chances of quitting for good, call a telephone counseling line, and ask your doctor about medicines that help you quit. These include nicotine replacement products (such as patches and gum) and other medications.
5. Carbohydrates--High-carbohydrate diets increase triglycerides for some people, so it pays to be aware of the carbs you eat. Focus on nutrient-rich carb choices, such as vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Limit foods that contain added sugars (such as non-diet soft drinks, candy, cookies, pastry, fruit punch, and sweetened yogurt) and refined grains (such as white bread, tortillas, corn flakes, pretzels, white rice, and most pasta).
6. Dietary fat--The type of fat in your diet also makes a difference. Limit saturated fat (found in beef, pork, lamb, poultry with skin, full-fat cheese, whole milk, cream, and butter) and trans fat (found in many packaged baked goods and restaurant fried foods). Replace them with healthier monounsaturated fat (found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, peanut butter, and many nuts and seeds) and polyunsaturated fat (found in soybean oil, corn oil, walnuts, and sunflower seeds). Also, include fish on the menu at least twice a week. Fatty varieties--such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and sardines--are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.