Do Your Bad Habits Drive Up Your Triglycerides?
It can be upsetting to learn that you have high triglycerides. High numbers increase your chance of getting heart disease. But there’s good news, too. If you change a few bad habits into better ones, you can bring your triglycerides down and keep your heart healthy.
Bad habit No. 1: You drink soda, sweetened tea, or fruit juices.
Sugar and fructose, which are used as a sweetener, can raise triglycerides. The extra calories in sugary drinks can also make you gain weight, which puts added strain on your heart and contributes to cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Better habit: Quench your thirst with sugar-free alternatives.
Artificially sweetened drinks are better than those with sugar or fructose because they are less likely to raise triglycerides. But water is the most convenient and inexpensive thirst quencher around. To add some zing, squeeze lemon or lime in sparkling water.
Bad habit No. 2: You eat white foods like pasta, rice, or bread at most meals.
Like sugar, foods such as white flour or semolina can raise triglyceride levels. So do starchy foods like white rice and potatoes.
Better habit: Switch to whole grains.
Whole-grain pasta is a great alternative, especially for bold sauces like a classic tomato sauce. Look for a tasty whole-grain bread for sandwiches. And eat brown rice instead of white rice. It has a rich, nutty flavor that’s perfect for making stir-fry. Instead of white potatoes, try grains like quinoa and barley.
Bad habit No. 3: You eat a lot of red meat.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream. Foods high in saturated fat, such as red meat, boost levels. Butter and cheese contain these same triglyceride-boosting fats.
Better habit: Choose lean meats or protein alternatives.
Opt for chicken and turkey that are lower in saturated fat. Another healthy option: Make meatless meals. Vegetarian pastas, chilis, and stir-fries offer a delicious alternative to meat dishes. Avoid dishes loaded with cream or cheese in favor of recipes that use vegetable oil and feature plenty of vegetables.
Bad habit No. 4: You only eat fried fish.
Most fried fish has a lot of added oil — the unhealthy type, saturated fat. That fat overpowers the type of fat found in fish, called omega-3 fatty acids, which helps keep triglycerides down.
Better habit: Help yourself to two servings of grilled or broiled fish a week.
Choose fatty fish such as salmon, freshwater trout, or tuna, which are especially rich in omega-3s, then grill or broil them. Look for recipes with flavors you like. If you’re still having trouble tempting your taste buds, take heart. Walnuts, flaxseed, soy products, and dark greens are good sources of triglyceride-lowering omega-3s.
Bad habit No. 5: You drink several glasses of alcohol a day.
Too much beer, wine, or spirits can drive up triglycerides.
Better habit: Set limits.
Have no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. If your triglyceride levels aren’t lowering enough despite your efforts, your doctor may recommend skipping alcohol altogether. Beer lovers can choose from many good nonalcoholic beers. If you drink wine, switch to flavored sparkling water.
Bad habit No. 6: You overeat.
Very large meals can send your triglyceride level into the danger zone. Spikes are dangerous because they can contribute to inflammation that can damage blood vessels.
Better habit: Divide your usual serving in half.
At home, cook the usual amount of food but serve only half. At restaurants, divide your meal into smaller portions. Eat slowly to give your body time to register when you’re full. Help yourself to more only if you’re still hungry. If you feel satisfied, pack away what’s left to enjoy later.
Bad habit No. 7: You skip meals.
Maybe you’re too busy to eat. Maybe you think you’ll lose weight if you skip a meal. The problem: you’re likely to get so hungry later that you’ll grab anything, healthy or not. Or you overeat at the next meal, which causes triglyceride levels to jump.
Better habit: Eat sensible-sized meals three times a day.
Enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner while sticking to recommended serving sizes. Have healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, or carrot and celery sticks handy when hunger strikes.
Bad habit No. 8: You don’t move around much.
Do you sit still for long periods? Lack of movement makes it hard for your body to process blood sugar and triglycerides normally.
Better habit: Get up and do something.
Move more each day. Skip the escalator or elevator and climb stairs. Get off the bus or subway one stop early and walk. Find leisurely activities you enjoy: Walk, swim, or ride a bike. Join a gym. Your goal is to do at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
Bad habit No. 9: You smoke.
When you have high triglycerides, heart disease is a major concern. If you smoke, your risk of heart disease dramatically increases.
Better habit: Live tobacco-free.
Make up your mind to quit. If you need help, talk to your doctor. When you’re ready, take action. Choose a date to give up your habit. Get support from friends and family. Buy sugar-free gum and low-calorie snacks to reach for instead of cigarettes. Find a local support group. Stay committed — you’ll kick cigarettes to the curb and add years to your life.