If you are like a lot of people I know, you are completely confused by your cholesterol results. This is totally understandable because there are quite a few numbers to look at.
I am not going to tell you exactly how to read your results, but I will tell you the most important numbers to look at… plus give you some all-natural ways to improve them.
And I hope this goes without saying, always listen to your doctor. If you are looking for a physician, I suggest finding a doctor who specializes in Functional Medicine.
The Most Important Number On Your Cholesterol Test
In a recent study1 published in the journal Clinics, the most important predictor of heart disease was not LDL to HDL, or total Cholesterol… Instead it was the ratio of Triglycerides to HDL.
According the study, those people with the highest ratio of Triglycerides to HDL, had 16 times the risk of a heart attack compared to those with the lowest ratio.
More importantly, the study examined all common predictors of heart disease and concluded, “Elevation in the ratio of TG to HDL-c was the single most powerful predictor of extensive coronary heart disease among all the lipid variables examined.”
How to Lower Your Triglyceride-to-HDL Ratio
In order to calculate your Triglyceride-to-HDL ratio, you simply divide your triglyceride level by your HDL level: Triglyceride/HDL = Triglyceride-to-HDL Ratio.
What result are we looking for?
According to my friend Dr. Jonny Bowden, you want to keep the ratio below 2. So if your HDL is 50, you would not want your triglyceride levels any higher than 100.
Our job then is to lower triglycerides (a type of fat that circulates in your blood), and raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol that reduces the risk of heart disease).
Natural Ways to Lower Your Triglyceride Levels
Similar to cholesterol, triglycerides are a type of fat that gives you energy. They are produced by the liver, but you can also get triglycerides from foods. Courtesy of John’s Hopkin’s School of Medicine2, here are seven ways to reduce your triglyceride levels:
* Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your body weight will reduce your triglycerides by approximately 20 percent. If you are having issues with weight, please consider trying RealDose Weight Loss Formula No. 1.
* Cut the sugar. Individuals whose added sugar intake is less than 10 percent of daily calories have the lowest triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association recommends that only 5 percent of your daily calories come from added sugars.
* Stock up on fiber. Instead of consuming sugar and other refined carbohydrates, focus on more fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
* Limit fructose. Studies have found that consuming too much fructose – a type of sugar – leads to high triglycerides. High-fructose corn syrup is a major source of fructose. You can determine whether a food contains sugar or high-fructose corn syrup by reading the ingredients list.
* Add omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, lake trout and albacore tuna are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids – a type of fat that is actually good for you. To reap the benefits, the American Heart Association recommends that you eat fatty fish at least twice a week. And make sure to take your RealDose Super Critical Omega-3 TG every day!
* Exercise. If you have high triglycerides, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week may lower your triglyceride levels.
Try doing these things, and see how you can lower this heart damaging fat.
Natural Ways to Increase HDL
“Boosting HDL is the next frontier in heart disease prevention,” says P.K. Shah, M.D., Director of Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Although experts are not completely sure why raising HDL helps reduce heart disease, it appears that HDL protects against plaque formation in artery walls and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are some all-natural foods you can eat that appear to raise the heart healthy HDL cholesterol.
* Dive Into Some Chocolate: This yummy treat keeps rising to the occasion. In a delicious study3, subjects consumed 26 grams of cocoa with 12 grams of sugar every day for 12 weeks (tough job I know). The result… subjects increased their HDL by an average of 24%!
* Make Sure to Eat Your Eggs: According to an interesting study, just adding one egg a day for three months increased HDL levels. Even better, it increased the ratio of HDL to total cholesterol. I am a big fan of eggs and like to make sure I always have a hard-boiled one on hand for a tasty, healthy snack.
* Omega-3 Fatty Acids (yes not only do they lower triglycerides, they increase HDL)
In a really interesting study, people experienced a significant increase in HDL-cholesterol, and a decrease in triglycerides when an omega-3 fatty acid spread (derived from fish oil) was added to their bread. While those who consumed the same bread without the omega-3 fatty acids experienced no change in either measure.
How they were able to get people to eat bread with a fish oil on it is beyond me (yuck). I think it’s easier to simply eat more fish (just make sure it is not farm raised), and you can also ensure you’re getting enough Omega-3’s by taking your Super Critical Omega-3 TG daily.
* Decrease Your Glycemic Load
According to The National Cholesterol Educational Program (NCEP)6, as glycemic load goes up, HDL goes down. The advice here is when you eat carbohydrates, choose those that will give you a minimal rise in blood sugar. For a more in depth explanation of glycemic load please click here.
Putting it All Together and a Word of Caution
Once you are over the age of 30 it’s important you get your cholesterol checked yearly. Make sure to pay attention to your Triglyceride-to-HDL ratio and make sure it’s below 2. I have shown you some natural ways to lower this ratio… but the list is by no means exhaustive.
There are other very important numbers to look at as well, so make sure you can find a doctor who can help you make sense of them. I do recommend finding one who is well versed in functional medicine. These doctors strive to treat the cause and not the symptom.
Please feel free to ask questions, this topic is worth discussing.
Steve Sisskind, M.D.
Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.
As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.
Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?
I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.
I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!
Join the Whole Body Club
Dr. Steve Sisskind is on a mission to help you achieve amazing health and vitality through the power of nutrition. Sign up to get access to his valuable health tips, recipes, videos, and discounts for FREE!
References:1. Protasio Lemos da Luz,I Desiderio Favarato,I Jose Rocha Faria-Neto Junior,II Pedro Lemos,I and Antonio Carlos Palandri ChagasI High Ratio of Triglycerides to HDL-Cholesterol Predicts Extensive Coronary Disease. Clinics. 2008 August; 63(4): 427–432.
3. Baba S, Osakabe N, Kato Y, Natsume M, Yasuda A, Kido T, Fukuda K, Muto Y, Kondo K. Continuous intake of polyphenolic compounds containing cocoa powder reduces LDL oxidative susceptibility and has beneficial effects on plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;85(3):709-17.
4. Mayurasakorn K, Srisura W, Sitphahul P, Hongto PO. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol changes after continuous egg consumption in healthy adults. J Med Assoc Thai. 2008 Mar;91(3):400-7.
5. Meilin Liu, Rolf Wallin, Tom Saldeen. Effect of bread containing stable fish oil on plasma phospholipid fatty acids, triglycerides, HDL-cholesterol, and malondialdehyde in subjects with hyperlipidemia. Nutrition research. November 2001 (volume 21 issue 11 Pages 1403-1410)
6. Grundy S, et al. (2002). Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel III) (NIH Publication No. 02-5215). Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health