Having a high level of triglycerides raises the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Lowering triglyceride levels requires lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, losing excess weight, quitting smoking, eating a low-fat diet and managing stress. Including oatmeal in the diet can also help control triglyceride levels. However, an overall healthy eating plan should be combined with appropriate medical care, which is overseen by a physician to avoid complications.
Triglycerides are a type of fat that circulates in the bloodstream. They are produced by the body and found in many foods. Calories consumed from any type of food not immediately used for energy are converted to triglycerides and stored in the body, according to the American Heart Association. When the body needs fat for fuel, the triglycerides are released into the bloodstream. When high amounts of triglycerides are stored in the body, a condition called hypertriglyceridemia can occur, which may contribute to heart disease. While some cases of hypertriglyceridemia are due to genetics or medical conditions, most cases are the result of eating an unhealthy diet with too many calories.
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If triglyceride levels are not excessively high and no other risk factors for heart disease exist, making healthy lifestyle choices may be the only treatment needed to lower triglyceride levels, reports the Cleveland Clinic. The goal is to limit intake of alcohol, highly refined breads, cereals, rice, pasta and crackers, as well as high-sugar foods, such as candy, soda and ice cream, because the body quickly converts these foods to blood sugar. When blood sugar levels climb, the body releases insulin to bring blood sugar levels down. As insulin levels rise, the body receives signals to release triglycerides as well.
To manage triglyceride levels, the diet should include whole grain foods, such as oatmeal, that are not bleached or enriched and that contain 5 g or more of dietary fiber per serving. Whole grain, high-fiber foods take longer to digest, so they do not raise blood sugar levels as quickly. This means that the body may not release as much insulin or triglycerides into the bloodstream, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Some patients find that within a few months of changing their diet, triglyceride levels come down.
To help reduce the risk of heart disease in general, the University of Arizona recommends between 25 and 35 grams of fiber a day. Since many fruits also contain soluble fiber, mixing a banana, apple or prune into a bowl of oatmeal can raise the soluble fiber content from 6 to 10 g per serving size. Adding about 1.5 oz. or a handful of almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts or walnuts can also raise fiber count. However, make sure to eat only unsalted nuts.
Eating oatmeal alone may not be enough to bring triglyceride levels down and other lifestyle changes must be made as well. In addition, since high triglyceride levels can exist without ever causing any symptoms, checking levels often is the only way to know if the treatment plan being followed is working. A physician can recommend how often a blood test should be done to check triglyceride levels based on personal health. This can help formulate an overall plan to reduce the risk of disease.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.