Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body. Your body stores and uses this type of fat for energy between meals. If the levels of triglycerides in your blood are increased, you may be at high risk for health problems.
Learn more about triglycerides, including what causes high triglyceride levels and how to lower them.
When you eat, the extra calories, sugar, and alcohol that your body doesn’t need right away are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells. When you need energy, hormones release the triglycerides.
If you typically consume more high-carbohydrate foods than you burn, it can lead to high triglyceride levels.
High levels of triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) are considered a high risk factor for narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to stroke, heart attack, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD). If your triglyceride levels are high you may be at high risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and liver disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH, a lipid panel tests your blood for the following levels:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL cholesterol
- LDL cholesterol
Your doctor may ask you to eat (quickly) for 8 to 12 hours before the test. The results are usually available within a few days. Your doctor will make recommendations based on the values given in your test.
NOTE: The results shown in this table are based on a fasted state and are measured as milligrams of triglycerides per deciliter of blood (mg / dL).
How often should you be tested?
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that people over 20 years of age get tested every 4 to 6 years. Based on your health, your doctor may suggest testing more often. The AHA also recommends that children be screened once between the ages of 9 and 11 and once between the ages of 17 and 21.
Your triglyceride levels may be due to factors such as:
Triglyceride levels higher than normal can put you at risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls), heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. When your triglyceride levels are high, you are at risk of pancreatitis and liver disease.
The top three ways to lower high triglyceride levels are:
Healthy lifestyle choices that lower high triglyceride levels include:
- diet. Avoid simple carbohydrates (like sugar and foods made from white flour or fructose), trans fats, and foods with hydrogenated oils or fats. Instead of the fat found in meat, choose healthier vegetable fats (like olive oil and canola oil). Replace red meat with fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (like mackerel or salmon). Limit or avoid alcohol consumption (high in calories and sugar)
- exercise. Physical Activity: The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends at least 40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, three to four times a week.
- Weight. Because extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat, when you cut down on your calories, you reduce triglycerides. Aim for and maintain a healthy weight with diet and exercise.
Other lifestyle changes to lower triglycerides include:
If healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control high triglycerides, your doctor may recommend prescription drugs like statins like rosuvastatin calcium (Crestor) and atorvastatin calcium (Lipitor), or fibrates like gemfibrozil (Lopid) and fenofibrate (TriCor, Fenoglide) .
Your doctor may also suggest a supplement like niacin (nicotinic acid) or fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids).
Since low triglycerides are usually not a cause for concern, there is no current range for them. If you have lower than normal triglyceride levels (below 150 mg / dL) it most likely reflects lifestyle choices such as:
- a low-fat diet
- a healthy diet
- a diet that includes fasting
Low triglyceride levels could also indicate an underlying condition such as malnutrition or malabsorption, but these conditions are typically diagnosed by other symptoms.
Because high triglyceride levels usually don’t cause symptoms, they’ll usually be detected when your doctor orders a blood test with a lipid panel.
If there are no risk factors such as medical conditions or lifestyle habits, your doctor will order a lipid panel every few years to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
If your lipid panel results show triglyceride levels above normal, your doctor will most likely suggest lifestyle changes that focus on diet and exercise. If diet and exercise aren’t having the desired effect, your doctor may recommend medications such as statins or fibrates.
If your blood test lipid panel shows you have high triglyceride levels, your doctor will likely recommend lifestyle changes, such as: B. exercising and following a diet low in simple carbohydrates, trans fats, and foods with hydrogenated oils or fats.
Typically, these lifestyle changes will improve your overall health and lower your triglyceride levels.