How Omega-3s Can Lower Cholesterol & Reduce Triglycerides—Heart Health
7 minute read
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat found in your body, and cholesterol is a lipoprotein. High levels of both can be catastrophic for your heart health.
With heart disease being one of the top causes of death in the United States, there has been an increase in efforts to reduce contributing factors. This includes lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and some essential fatty acids may be the best way to do this.
Here is what you need to know about omega-3 fatty acids and how to easily add them to your diet and healthy lifestyle.
The Good and Bad of It All
There are two types of cholesterol—LDL cholesterol is considered “bad,” and HDL is “good.” LDL cholesterol contributes to the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries, which can interfere with blood flow.
Over time this causes high blood pressure and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. HDL is considered good because it scavenges LDL and removes it from your blood, taking it back to your liver to be processed and then excreted.
Cholesterol can easily build up in your system because it is naturally produced by your body and can be ingested from certain animal products. Diets that are high in cholesterol like red meats, saturated fats, and whole-fat dairy products allow for excess cholesterol in your body.
When this happens, your HDL cholesterol has a difficult time scavenging all the LDL, and it accumulates to dangerous levels.
Triglycerides are fats that store excess energy from your diet. When combined with HDL or LDL, these fats cause the plaque accumulation in your arteries that leads to cardiovascular problems.
Because triglycerides can combine with both types of cholesterol and because HDL cannot scavenge all the LDL from your blood, the best approach to heart health is to reduce all levels. Dietary changes can achieve this, as can adding beneficial fatty acids to the mix.
Not to be confused with fats, omega-3 fatty acids are essential and beneficial to your health. These are specific types of polyunsaturated fats found in fish and plant products that can help boost heart health. These are classified as healthy fats because they do not contribute to plaque buildups or arterial or heart diseases.
You can always opt for a high-quality omega-3 supplement, but there are plenty of foods sources available to add to your diet. The best food sources for omega-3 fatty acids include:
♦ Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, and sardines
♦ Nuts, like walnuts and almonds
♦ Wild rice
♦ Greens, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
Omega-3s Take on the Bad Fats
Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats—they have a beneficial impact on harmful fats, like triglycerides and cholesterol, and can protect your heart. DHA and EPA are the most common omega-3 fatty acids, and studies have found these can help lower both cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
When part of a balanced and healthy diet, omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce the amount of triglycerides in the blood, especially when ingested directly after the healthy meal.
Your liver produces triglycerides and omega-3s to help to slow this process down. When fewer triglyceride molecules are produced and released into your blood, there is a lower chance of them combining with cholesterol molecules to produce arterial plaques.
Omega-3 supplements ensure that triglyceride production is kept to a healthy rate. Individuals with already high triglyceride levels benefit the most from omega-3 supplementation and report significantly lower levels.
With regards to cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids have additional benefits to promote heart health. Omega-3s slightly increase the levels of HDL cholesterol in your blood, which allows for more potential scavenging of the bad cholesterol molecules.
As for LDL cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids increase their size, which is an important contribution. Smaller LDL molecules are the ones that contribute to plaques and heart disease, whereas larger LDL molecules have been found to benefit heart health.
How Omega-3s Boost Heart Health
The reduction of triglycerides and cholesterol in your blood is a major contribution to preventing heart disease. The accumulation of fats and plaques in the blood lead to hardened arteries and restricted blood flow.
The increased pressure placed on your heart to pump blood through the body causes stress and damage, eventually even heart disease. The good news about omega-3s is that they help your heart far beyond this reduction in harmful fats. Here’s how.
Omega-3s have a regulating effect on your heart rate. Studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements keeps your heart beating at a normal rate, which reduces blood pressure and strain on your heart.
Arrhythmias are the leading cause of cardiac death, so maintaining a normal heart beat significantly reduces your risk for heart attack.
Inflammation causes damage to heart cells and tissues, which inevitably increases your chances of cardiovascular disease. In large enough doses, omega-3 fatty acids are powerful anti-inflammatory agents and can protect your heart from the damage of chronic inflammation.
It is always best to address the underlying cause of inflammation, but during an inflammatory response, omega-3s reduce the destruction done to your heart.
Omega-3s have the ability to lower blood pressure which protects your heart from overworking. It is believed that these fatty acids help to stabilize blood pressure by reducing plaque formations that cause blockages and by helping to maintain a steady heart rate.
| Related: What Is Astaxanthin and Why Your Krill Oil Needs It |
The function of blood vessels improves with omega-3 fatty acids. By reducing the arterial stiffness associated with a poor diet and high cholesterol levels, omega-3s can promote optimal blood vessel function to better support your heart.
The Bottom Line
Heart disease is an all too common cause of death, and cholesterol and triglycerides are major players in the game. While some cholesterol is good for you, high levels combined with triglycerides from unhealthy, high-fat diets can put your heart in serious risk.
Remembering that there are some healthy polyunsaturated fats out there like omega-3s could be your best defense against heart disease. Say goodbye to high cholesterol and unhealthy fat levels by adding omega-3s to your diet today.