Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body. Hypothyroidism is a disease in which your thyroid gland produces too few hormones. Having hypothyroidism increases your risk for unhealthy cholesterol levels, according to "The New York Times" Health Guide, including high LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, low HDL, or "good" cholesterol and high triglycerides. If you have or suspect either condition, seek guidance from your doctor.
Triglycerides store calories you don't use immediately, after you eat. Later, hormones help your body release triglycerides for use as energy. Because hypothyroidism reduces the rate at which your body uses calories for fuel and slows hormone production, your triglycerides are more likely to remain in your fat cells. Hypothyroidism also increases your LDL levels by increasing the absorption of cholesterol through your liver, preventing it from effectively eliminating excess cholesterol, according to "The Complete Thyroid Book" by Kenneth Ain, M.D., and M. Sara Rosenthal, a bioethicist and endocrine disorder specialist.
High triglycerides, or a score above 149 mg/dL, is a risk factor for metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk for serious conditions, including diabetes and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Weight gain, a common symptom of hypothyroidism, further increases these risks.
Dietary changes can help prevent or reverse cholesterol problems related to hypothyroidism until thyroid medications restore healthy hormone levels, according to Ain. Your diet should emphasize fiber-rich foods, lean protein and healthy fats and limit unhealthy fat and dietary cholesterol sources, such as fatty meats, dairy products and processed foods, such as white bread and sugary sweets. Physical activity and losing excess weight can also improve your triglycerides and overall cardiovascular health. If your triglycerides or LDL cholesterol remain high several months into hypothyroidism treatment, your doctor may recommend cholesterol-reducing medications.
Valuable sources of fiber include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes, such as beans and lentils. Whole grains, seaweed and other fresh vegetables, also provide B vitamins, which can help reduce hypothyroidism symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Heart-healthy protein sources include fish, skinless poultry, egg whites and low-fat dairy products. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are prevalent in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, halibut and herring, reduce triglyceride levels. Additional healthy fat sources include nuts, seeds, avocados and vegetable oils.
Is This an Emergency?
- American Heart Association: What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean
- "The New York Times" Health Guide: High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides; reviewed by Harvey Simon, M.D.; 2009
- "The Complete Thyroid Book"; Kenneth Ain, M.D., M. Sara Rosenthal; 2010
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Hypothyroidism
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids