Q: My cholesterol levels are okay, but my triglycerides are off the charts. Does one balance the other?
A: Unfortunately, no. Triglycerides, a type of fat found in your bloodstream, haven’t gotten the same attention as cholesterol, but unhealthy levels (over 200 mg) can increase your risk of heart attack and heart disease.
Lifestyle changes can reduce high triglyceride levels, however, as a recent issue of the Harvard Heart Letter points out. First, be smart about your fats and carbs by cutting down on saturated and trans fats and avoiding sugary foods and refined grains. Whole grains and omega-3-rich fish can make a difference, too, so make these foods staples of your diet.
Getting regular exercise is also crucial, and if you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight can help. While moderate drinking (especially red wine) can benefit heart health, for some people, alcohol dramatically increases triglyceride levels. If your levels are high and you drink, consider stopping for a few weeks and getting your levels tested again. Finally, certain supplements may be beneficial; talk to your doctor about fish oil and niacin.
Dr. Brent Ridge is the health expert for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. You can call and ask him a question live every Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern on Sirius Satellite Radio, Channel 112 (1.866.675.6675). You can also follow along as he learns to grow his own food and raise goats on his farm in upstate New York by visiting www.beekman1802.com.
Got a health question for Dr. Brent? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.