What Are Triglycerides?
Measured during a cholesterol test, triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood that stores unused calories. Higher levels can raise your risk of heart disease.
Triglyceride Levels: What's Healthy?
You can find out what your triglyceride levels are by asking your healthcare provider for a lipid panel, a type of simple blood test that measures both cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.
Your doctor may ask you to fast prior to having your blood drawn for the lipid panel.
Normal: less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
Very high: 500 mg/dL and above
What Causes High Triglycerides?
Eating more calories than you burn consistently can raise your triglyceride levels above normal levels.
Foods particularly rich in saturated fat or highly processed carbohydrates can contribute to abnormal triglyceride levels. Consuming these calorie-rich, easy-to-break-down foods results in more easily released energy, which is then converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
High triglycerides are also a symptom of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
How to Reduce High Triglycerides
Typically, adopting healthy lifestyle choices can help you keep your triglyceride levels in check.
Limiting Sweets and Other Highly Processed Simple Carbohydrates?Eating foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, like white flour and white rice, can raise your triglycerides.
Swapping Foods Rich in Saturated Fat for Vegetable Oil and Omega-3 Rich Foods?Saturated fats, which are found in most animal and dairy products, can raise triglyceride levels. Instead, cooking with vegetable oils like olive oil and canola oil can help manage both high triglyceride and high cholesterol.
Limiting consumption of beef and pork and eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, canned sardines, and mackerel can also help manage high triglyceride.
Limiting or Stop Drinking Alcohol?High in both calories and sugar, drinking alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels, along with many other negative health effects.
Keeping Your Weight in a Healthy Range?If you have high triglycerides, even a small amount weight loss (in the 5 to 10 pound range) can lower your levels.
Medications That Lower Triglycerides
Sometimes, lifestyle changes alone may not change your triglyceride levels. If that’s the case, your doctor will prescribe a medication to help lower triglycerides, such as:
Fish Oil In large doses, omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglyceride levels. The most common supplement is OTC fish oil, but they are also available by prescription.
Fibrates These medications reduce overall triglyceride levels by reducing the liver’s production of very-low-density lipoproteins, which are made up mostly of triglycerides. They include Lopid (gemfibrozil) and TriCor (fenofibrate).
Niacin Also known as nicotinic acid, niacin is a B vitamin that can raise HDL cholesterol while lowering levels of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Your doctor may prescribe niacin if your triglyceride levels are higher than 500 mg/dL.
Since niacin can interact with other medications and may cause side effects, don't take over-the-counter niacin without first discussing it with your doctor.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
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- What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean. American Heart Association. November 6, 2020.
- Triglycerides: Why Do They Matter? Mayo Clinic.?September 29, 2020.
- Familial Hypertriglyceridemia. MedlinePlus. September 1, 2021.
- Medication Induced Changes in Lipid and Lipoproteins. EndoText. May 10, 2018.
- Triglycerides and Heart Health. Cleveland Clinic. January 16, 2019.
- American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids. American Heart Association.?April 18, 3018.
- Statins. MedicineNet. November 25, 2019.
- Controlling Cholesterol with Statins. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. February 16, 2017.
- Fibric Acid Derivatives. Drugs.com.
- Triglycerides.?MedlinePlus. July 21, 2021.