Are we fighting the wrong enemy in the war on heart disease?
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that low triglycerides are the key to avoiding heart attacks. Currently, most doctors focus on keeping patients’ cholesterol levels down to prevent cardiovascular disease, America’s biggest killer.
Scientists found that people with a rare gene mutation that keeps triglyceride levels low have a surprisingly low risk – 40 percent lower than the general population – for heart disease.
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Traditionally, doctors have looked to abnormal cholesterol levels as the primary cause of heart-health problems. Millions of Americans take statin drugs, which reduce cholesterol.
However, the results of this study suggest that triglyceride levels play an equally large, if not greater role, in heart health. Finding ways to reduce triglycerides – a kind of fat in the blood – may be the key to maintaining a healthy heart.
David Brownstein, M.D., a family physician in Michigan and one of the nation's most renowned holistic doctors, says that most people should have their triglyceride levels checked once a year with a blood test. Healthy triglyceride levels are defined as lower than 150 mg/dL, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program.
Although the new study is expected to lead to a push to develop drugs that lower triglycerides – much like statins lower cholesterol – Dr. Brownstein says a healthy diet is best way to decrease triglycerides.
“Diet has little effect on cholesterol. But diet has a huge effect on triglycerides,” he told Newsmax Health.
This means eating fewer simple sugars such as are in processed foods and soft drinks, and a greater amount of rich, complex sugars such as in vegetables and whole grains, according to the American Heart Association.
Two statins – Crestor and Lipitor – are known to lower triglycerides along with cholesterol. However, others have little effect on triglyceride levels.
Niacin (vitamin B3) supplements have been shown in studies to lower triglycerides 20 to 50 percent. An often-recommended dosage for heart health is 2 grams a day taken at meal time.
Dr. Brownstein, author of the Natural Way to Health newsletter, added: “They are trying to look for a new drug with this study, but cleaning up the diet is really the most effective way to lower triglyceride levels.”
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