My triglycerides are high. Should I be worried and what can I do to decrease them?

Triglycerides are fats in the blood. They are directly measured in a standard lipid panel that your doctor runs on your annual visit. A healthy triglyceride level is less than 100. Having high triglycerides is very worrisome. High triglyceride levels lead to elevated VLDL levels in the blood, which are direct precursors to small, dense LDL particles. Small dense LDL particles (or type “B” particles) are highly “atherogenic”. This means that they cause blockages to be formed in the arteries, and subsequently heart attacks and strokes. So how do triglyceride levels become elevated? They are formed from excess sugar in the bloodstream. Too much sugar is toxic to the body. The body can only store a small amount of sugar as glycogen in the liver and muscles. To protect the body from toxic excess sugar, the liver turns extra sugar directly into triglycerides. Thus, eating a lot of carbohydrates directly leads to elevated triglycerides. Your body can then store extra triglycerides as fat in your belly. This is how you get fat. The best natural way to lower your triglycerides is to lower your intake of carbohydrates and sugar. Your body is taking all that pasta, rice, potatoes and pretzels you have been eating and turning them directly into triglycerides. This is making you fat and leading to an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that medications are usually not needed to improve the situation. Just decrease your carbohydrate intake and you will see a significant decrease in your triglyceride levels on your next blood draw.

More fiber = less heart attacks.

If you’re like most Americans, you likely consume less than the recommended amount of fiber each day. This may be a big mistake. The latest study of heart attack survivors shows that people who ate the most fiber had a 25% lower chance of dying nine years later from any cause compared to people who consumed less. Every increase of 10g of fiber each day was on average linked to a 15% lower risk of dying over the study period.

This is the first study to suggest that heart attack patients benefited from adding fiber (found in whole grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables) to their daily diet. An earlier study found that people at risk of heart disease, but who hadn’t yet experienced some kind of a heart event, could lower their chances of having a heart attack by eating more high fiber foods. Studies show that fiber-rich foods can decrease inflammation, a potential trigger for heart attacks, as well as lower levels of LDL cholesterol, which can contribute to atherosclerosis in your arteries.

Interestingly, the findings suggest that fiber may also be helping more than the heart, since those eating higher amounts were able to lower their risk of dying from any cause, not just heart disease. It also helps to lower the risk of colon cancer by reducing the time that potentially cancer-causing toxins spend in the intestines. Fiber helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar in diabetics, reducing their risk of complications. Fiber also plays an important role in fighting obesity and its unhealthy consequences. Increasing fiber intake fiber helps the body feel less hungry and cuts down on overeating.

There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are undigested. They are not absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead of being used for energy, fiber is excreted from your body. Soluble fiber forms a gel when mixed with liquid, while insoluble fiber does not. Insoluble fiber is good for the GI tract and can help prevent colon cancer. It adds bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation. Since insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water, it passes through the gastrointestinal tract relatively intact, and speeds up the passage of food and waste through your gut.  Therefore, it helps remove toxic waste through colon in less time. A mixture of soluble and insoluble fiber every day is important. Click this link for a list of foods which contain soluble and insoluble fiber: https://drjeffgreenberg.com/2012/10/24/guide-to-fiber-in-food.

A good daily goal of fiber intake is 40 grams of fiber a day. Increase your intake slowly and drink a lot of water. Make it a habit to look at labels. Look for foods with the highest fiber amount. Look for pasta with a large amount of fiber. Look for cereals and oatmeal with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. For extra fiber, add flaxseed or berries to your breakfast. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables for a snack. The more processed a food is, the less fiber it will have, and the less healthy it will be. Fiber from supplements is not nearly as good as fiber from whole foods. A high fiber diet is a marker of many anti-cancerous properties of whole foods, especially phytochemicals. Fiber intake from food is a good marker of disease risk. Some studies suggest that the amount of fiber consumed may better predict weight gain/loss, insulin/blood sugar levels, and other cardiovascular risk factors than does the total amount of fat consumed. Remember, fiber is only found in plant products and not in meat, dairy, or highly processed products. Fiber is a miracle nutrient. Not only will it help keep you regular, it also appears to significantly reduce your risk of having a heart attack and stroke.

Do you have a sweet tooth? A new study suggests it may be killing you!

A new study released suggests that your sweet tooth may be killing you. A study of more than 40,000 people published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a four times increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes. This study showed that your risk of heart attacks doubles if sugar makes up 20 percent of your calories. Just one 20-ounce soda daily increases your risk of a heart attack by about 30 percent.

For years, we’ve been taught that sugar is harmless except as a source of empty calories. They are not empty calories. As it turns out, sugar calories are deadly calories. Sugar causes heart attacks, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia. Unlike the natural sugars existing in fruits and some vegetables, added sugars are introduced to foods during their processing and preparation. Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda are the leading source of added sugar consumption in the U.S., followed by grain-based desserts, like cookies and cake.

High levels of sugar consumption lead to elevated insulin levels, insulin resistance, high triglycerides, lower HDL (good) cholesterol and dangerous small LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also triggers the inflammation we now know is at the root of heart disease. Lowering overall sugar intake is a great natural way to lower your inflammation levels. Remember, simple carbohydrates such as flour, most breads, pastas, and white rice are quickly turned into sugar by our bodies and are just as dangerous as eating regular sugar.

It is time to cut down on your sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption to improve your health. A healthy diet includes lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates – carbohydrates with a large amount of fiber, which slows the release of sugar into the intestine. (See previous articles)  This diet or lifestyle is the best way to eat to keep your insulin levels low, to lose weight, and to help prevent heart disease.

I am healthy. Why do I need to see a cardiologist?

CardiacSolutionsLogoYou are healthy, right? You feel good and take reasonable care of yourself. You have not seen a doctor in years. What good reason is there to see a cardiologist? The answer in one word is: prevention. Heart disease and stroke are both highly preventable and treatable. There is no reason for anyone to have either a heart attack or stroke. Prevention is the key. There are several risk factors which can increase your risk of heart attacks and strokes including: hypertension, high cholesterol, elevated inflammation levels, diabetes and elevated blood sugar levels, being over weight, increased belly fat, lack of exercise, family history of cardiovascular disease, and smoking. Both heart attacks and stroke are vascular diseases. They both involve our arteries which carry blood and nutrients to the heart and brain. Many people think heart attacks and strokes are sudden events. They are not. In fact, there is usually evidence of diseased arteries (atherosclerosis) years, if not decades ahead of time. There are several non-invasive ways to assess the health of your arteries. Two methods are ultrasound and CT scans. Ultrasound is a favorite of mine, because no radiation is used. A simple ultrasound of the neck arteries (a carotid artery ultrasound) can give you important information on the health of your arteries. Plaque in the walls of the arteries can be visualized by ultrasound. In fact, it can be detected at an early stage. Even mild plaque can be visualized. If it is detected, corrective action can prevent future disasters. Clearly, if you smoke, you need to stop. Smoking directly damages the artery wall which leads to plaque formation. Lowering blood pressure will reduce risk of heart attacks and stroke. Lowering you cholesterol numbers can also help lower your risk. A new measure of cholesterol, LDL-(p), which measures the total number of bad cholesterol particles, can help define your risk. You want to avoid the small, dense LDL (bad) particles which help to promote plaque. Losing weight, shrinking your belly, and exercise all help to reduce your risk. Is your inflammation level high? Reducing inflammation levels will reduce your risk. Think of your cardiologist as a coach. He can help assess your risk and then discuss ways with you to help reduce your risk. It is all about being proactive. Most heart attacks and stroke are preventable. Do not delay! Do not procrastinate any longer! Get an assessment and reduce your risk. Reducing your risk will help you feel better and live longer.  Dr Greenberg specializes in preventive cardiology and nutrition. To make an appointment with Dr Greenberg at Cardiac Solutions please call 623.876.8816.