And What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk. At long last, the American Heart Association has caught up with us mavericks in yet another risk area -- triglycerides.
Triglycerides are blood fats -- not cholesterol. For too long levels of this blood fat have been ignored, with all the attention going to the dreaded cholesterol.
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Don't get me wrong, you do need to lower your LDL cholesterol levels and raise HDL. But stroke -- the fourth leading cause of death in males in the U.S. -- may be caused by triglycerides, not cholesterol.
One study followed over 11,000 patients with coronary artery disease, but no history of stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attacks). It found that triglycerides levels higher than 200 were associated with a 30 percent increased risk of ischemic stroke.
So where do these triglycerides come from? Well the AMA itself actually acknowledges that there's a connection between high triglycerides and insulin resistance.
As you become resistant to insulin, your body produces more and more of it. I've warned you before that excess insulin causes all sorts of health problems like inflammation, excess clotting, hypertension, fluid retention, cancer and other degenerative conditions.
When you eat too many carbs, your bloodstream is loaded with excess glucose. So the pancreas makes insulin to deal with it. The liver is loaded with glycogen (complex glucose) for immediate energy needs. Then whatever glucose is left is converted into fat. That gets stuffed all over the body -- from fat cells to blood vessels. Triglycerides are those fat cells in your bloodstream.
So although they are fats, triglycerides are not a sign of too much fat in the diet. They are actually a sign of too many carbohydrates.
ACTION TO TAKE: The triglycerides test is a simple blood test that's usually done with cholesterol. It can tip you off to a brewing problem with high insulin.
Make sure your doctor takes a look at your fasting triglyceride levels when he assesses your cardiovascular health. In most cases, I'm more concerned with triglycerides than cholesterol. The AHA guidelines say a normal level for triglycerides is under 150 mg/dL. This is far, far too lax. I consider levels over 100 clearly abnormal in assessing my patients. The lower the better.
The treatment is not fat reduction, as most doctors advise, but carb reduction. Cutting out or down on the carbohydrates will stop the virtual free-flow of glucose into the bloodstream. That will slow down the insulin release and bring your metabolism back to normal.
Exercise will also help to burn off the carb load and lower high insulin levels.
Not only will you feel better and lose weight, you may just reduce your risk of suffering a stroke!