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Heart Health

Keeping the heart healthy is the most important thing any of us can do to help prevent or reduce heart disease.

Heart disease is basically a blockage of the blood vessels that supply the heart and eventually starves the heart muscle of oxygen and possibly causing a heart attack. Many men and women die prematurely from heart disease, with hundreds of people a day suffering a heart attack!

Part of the cause of heart problems is related to high cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

What are Cholesterol and Triglycerides?

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and plays an essential role in maintaining the health of the cells in our body. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and is also involved in the production of Vitamin D.

However, having too much cholesterol in the blood can cause disease of the heart and arteries which is one of the main causes of death in the Western world.

Triglycerides are also fatty substances used by the body as a source of energy. They are made from glycerol and 3 fatty (acid) components. Triglycerides are stored as fat in the body and circulate in the blood to enable the transfer of fat and glucose from the liver.

Cholesterol is carried around the body by proteins, called lipoproteins. There are 2 main types of lipoproteins that perform this important part of cholesterol regulation.

  • Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from the liver to the cells that need it. LDL is also known as “bad cholesterol” because it can build up as deposits in the walls of arteries which can then lead to blocking of the arteries with potential serious consequences. It is also involved in the storage of fat in the body as adipose tissue.
  • High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) carry cholesterol away from cells and back to the liver to be broken down. HDL is also known as “good cholesterol”

What is the connection between Cholesterol and Triglycerides?

Triglyceride levels in the blood are affected by diet because when we don’t burn off sufficient calories, triglycerides can start to build up. This may lead to raised triglyceride levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

The higher the triglyceride levels in the blood, the lower the HDL levels - the good cholesterol which protects the cardiovascular system.

Knowing your own Cholesterol and Triglyceride levels?

It is helpful to be aware of cholesterol and triglyceride levels, making sure they are not too high. To find out what your levels are you will need to ask your GP for a full Lipid Profile, taken after you have not eaten anything for 12 hours (fasting)

This is a blood test that looks at total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and HDL-cholesterol.

A standard cholesterol test will only give total cholesterol levels.

What are the correct Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels in my blood?

NHS guidelines recommend that total cholesterol levels should be: 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults; 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk. NHS guidelines for Fasting triglycerides = 2mmol/L or less

If you have a high cholesterol reading then there are a number of things you can do to help lower your cholesterol to the recommended level. These include:

  • Swapping saturated fats in your diet for low fat or unsaturated fat alternatives;
  • Trying to eat a healthy diet, with plenty of variety and fibre;
  • Introducing foods with added plant sterols to your diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption.

If you want to continue to keep your body healthy, it’s important to be aware of the impact diet and lifestyle choices can have on cholesterol levels.

If you think you have raised cholesterol levels, seek the advice of your GP to help you manage your cardiovascular health

How to lower triglyceride levels

If you’re wondering how to lower triglycerides, a healthy lifestyle is key:

Actively maintain a healthy weight.

Studies have shown that if you’re overweight, losing that extra weight can help to bring triglycerides down.

Be more active.

Upping the amount of exercise you regularly do has also been shown to help. The NHS recommends 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week.

Talk to a healthcare professional. If your triglyceride levels are higher than they should be, it’s important you talk to your GP.

Omega 3 DHA & EPA help to maintain healthy triglycerides

The most important essential fatty acids present in Omega 3 is DHA -  docosahexaenoic acid and EPA - eicosapentaenoic acid

European Commission EFSA Article 13 Health Claims for Omega 3 EPA & DHA:

  • EPA & DHA contribute to normal heart function with a daily intake of 3g EPA & DHA.
  • EPA & DHA contribute to the maintenance of normal blood triglyceride levels with a daily intake of 2g EPA & DHA
  • EPA & DHA contribute to the maintenance of normal blood pressure with a daily intake of 3g EPA & DHA.
  • If you are concerned about your cholesterol and triglyceride levels then consult your GP for a full lipid profile (fasting), and if triglycerides are raised then you can start to take up to 6 capsules daily as part of the changes you will need to make.
  • If you are healthy, taking 2000mg per day of Omega 3 to help maintain triglyceride levels is also something you might consider.
  • In all situations, if you are taking blood thinning medication, consult your GP if you wish to take an Omega 3 supplement.
  • It is recommended that you do not exceed a supplemental daily intake of 5g of EPA and DHA combined.

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