Chapter 7: Triglycerides
What are triglycerides, and why are too many of them bad for you? Unlike saturated, trans, and unsaturated fat, triglycerides are a type of fat that our bodies naturally produce. When you eat, the calories that are not used for energy change into triglycerides, and they enter the bloodstream. They are then stored in your fat cells, and when you are in between meals, they get released into your body for energy. They have twice as much energy in them as carbohydrates and protein do. It is necessary to have the proper amount of triglycerides in the bloodstream. After all, what else would serve as an energy source in between meals?
Too many triglycerides, however, can increase your risk of heart disease. This is because triglycerides do not dissolve in your bloodstream. Whatever is not needed stays in the bloodstream, and eventually clogs the vessels. Having too much is like having a traffic jam inside a tunnel, only the traffic jam takes place in your vessels. High amounts of triglycerides can contribute to or cause the blockage and hardening of the arteries. This means that you have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.
One disease high triglycerides can cause is Metabolic Syndrome. This is a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around your waist, low levels of good cholesterol, and high cholesterol. Patients with Metabolic Syndrome feel unusually tired. This condition puts you at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Therefore, we have to have normal levels of triglycerides.
Of course, the primary cause of high triglycerides is overeating, coupled with not enough exercise. When we eat too much, the extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscles. Eating more glucose than you can store will naturally elevate glucose levels in the blood. Eventually, this excess changes into triglycerides and blocks the blood vessels. Triglycerides look like corn oil, and have a yellowish color. Too much leads to obesity and heart problems.
What can we do to prevent high triglycerides? We can change our diets and lifestyles. We have to limit our consumption of fats and sugars. We must become more balanced by eating healthy meals and exercising. These changes will help us to maintain a healthy weight. Once again, our bodies must be in a balanced state. Our cholesterol must be within normal ranges, and so must our triglycerides. If something is out of balance, it can have negative effects on our bodies, such as disease and organ failure. This not only applies to triglycerides and cholesterol, but to everything contained in our bodies. Here is a good analogy.
Imagine you have an expensive sports car. It functions great if it has the proper amount of oil in it. If it is out of oil, the car will run a bit, but the engine will burn out and it will come to a dead stop. This is because it is out of balance from its lack of oil. Not having oil in it affects all other parts and pumps under the hood. It needs oil to function, just like we need clean blood in our bodies to function. If the car does not have oil or we do not have clean blood vessels, irreparable damage occurs.
Is it more convenient to go to a fast food restaurant rather than cooking your own meals? Of course. It may take an hour or more to make a healthy meal at home, not including all of the time it takes just to buy the ingredients. Also, it is not more expensive to make your own meals versus eating out. If you go to a fast food hamburger place, it will cost you at least $7, but probably more, for one of the meals. If you eat a meal for lunch and one for dinner, that is $14. Breakfast will probably be $5 or so, which comes to about $20 a day. Multiply that by 30 days in a month, and you are eating fat-laden, cholesterol-loaded, essentially poisonous junk food for $600 a month. Ask yourself this: how do you feel after you eat a high fat value meal from one of these places? How do you feel after eating some fruit, vegetables, some whole grain, and maybe a little meat? I know I feel poorly when I do not eat right. I get tired, depressed, my stomach starts to hurt, and my bowels lock up with hard stool. For less money, you can eat healthier. Buy fresh produce, cook your food at home, and eat multigrain. Eating healthy is a lifestyle change only you can make. Remember the tried and true saying: you are what you eat; garbage in, garbage out.
We cannot sacrifice healthy food choices for convenience. In other words, it may be easier and more convenient to grab a burger versus cooking a healthy meal, but there is always another solution. You could always make meals ahead of time and heat them up when you need to. Try preparing food like salads and sandwiches ahead of time. A little extra effort is worth the preservation of your health.
Socialization also affects how we eat. If you are at work, and everybody goes out to lunch daily, you may be expected to tag along and eat with the group. When our kids are at school, they eat cafeteria food because “cool” kids do not pack their lunches. Heaven forbid they pack a healthy lunch. However hard it may be, we cannot let peer pressure, in all its glory, dissuade us from eating properly.
We cannot train and exercise hard if we have plaque buildup in our blood vessels due to poor food choices. If we do, our heart function will become unstable, and it will fail. We have to either make sure the plaque was never in there in the first place, or that it is being cleaned out. Exercising in an unhealthy condition may cause death. That is why so many exercise programs have a disclaimer that says to check with a physician before attempting the program. A doctor can check you out prior to starting the program, to make sure your body is in a healthy enough state to exercise and meet the program’s requirements.
Balance begins with diet. I mentioned eating smaller meals more frequently, but let me explain its importance. You cannot stuff yourself…you must exercise self-control. Eating like this will assist your body in sustaining its energy levels throughout the day. With smaller portions, the calories we obtain will be burned off at a steady rate by our everyday activities. Contrast this with eating a candy bar, where all of the calories are broken down immediately. The body cannot use the fuel quickly enough, the fuel turns to fat, which leads to obesity. Even if you have an office job, walking from desk to desk, to the bathroom, walking up or down stairs, or whatever other activity you can do will cause you to burn off the smaller amount of steady calories you get from eating healthy foods. This will prevent a portion of the calories from being converted into triglycerides. You must also continue to be active after you leave work. You can do this by riding a bike, jogging, running, jumping rope, swimming, taking a walk, etc. If nothing else, even doing household chores, walking up or down the stairs, taking the trash out, or whatever other physical activity you can do will cut the triglycerides if you stick to a good diet. You just simply have to do something that gets your body moving. This mimics the way a sparrow lives. Again, it eats small amounts of food, enough to give it the right amount of energy to fly around. We must eat and then perform some type of physical activity.
The key to dropping weight is making sure that you are active and eating the right types and right amounts of food. There is no way around this. If you are not active, the calories that are not being burned off lead to fat accumulation, even if you are eating smaller meals more frequently. This means your triglycerides will become higher than what is safe, and that can result in plaque (cholesterol) buildup in the blood vessels. Plaque can also build up in the brain, which is filled with blood vessels. This leads to stroke. If the plaque builds up in the blood vessels in your eyes, you can become blind.
Here is a good illustration regarding plaque. Imagine a drinking straw is one of your arteries. If you blow into it, and put your hand near the open end, you feel all of your air coming through it. This represents a plaque free artery. Now, put a small balled up piece of paper in it, like the spitballs kids used to shoot each at each other in school. This represents plaque buildup. When you blow through the straw, no air comes out of the other end. You have to blow really hard to get it to shoot out. This represents your heart working harder to force blood through the vessels due to the blockages. Having to work harder weakens the heart. So, plaque can, and will, eventually lead to your demise.
One final comment before I move on. If you are obese, it is a result of high triglycerides and cholesterol. This means your blood flow is slow, which contributes to a decrease in body temperature. A healthy body temperature is 36.5 degrees Celsius. If it declines one degree, to 35.5 degrees Celsius, your immune system weakens. You are at risk for getting colds. You must keep your temperature at 36.5 degrees Celsius to keep your immune system strong. A good body temperature means our bodies are healthy. Let us keep our temperatures in the normal range by eating a healthy diet and exercising.