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Triglycerides

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of lipid (fat). Your body gets triglycerides from fats in the food you eat. When your body digests food, fats in the food change to triglycerides. Your liver also makes triglycerides. Your blood carries triglycerides to all parts of the body to be used as energy or stored as fat.

What is a normal triglyceride level?

  • Generally, you want your triglyceride level to be 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less.
  • A level between 150 and 199 mg/dL is borderline high.
  • A level of 200 mg/dL is high. (Triglycerides rarely reach extremely high levels unless you have an inherited tendency for high levels.)

How are triglycerides associated with cholesterol?

Triglycerides combine with protein in your blood to form substances called high-density and low-density lipoproteins. The lipoproteins contain cholesterol, which is one of the fats in blood that is related to heart disease.

What causes high triglyceride levels?

High triglyceride levels may have several causes:

  • Weight gain. Triglyceride levels usually increase as your weight increases.
  • Too many calories in your diet, especially from sugar and alcohol. Alcohol increases your liver's production of triglycerides. It also reduces the amount of fat cleared from your blood.
  • Age. Triglyceride levels go up as you get older.
  • Medicines. Some drugs, such as birth control pills, steroids, and diuretics (water pills), can cause triglyceride levels to rise.
  • Illness. Medical conditions associated with high triglyceride levels are diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and liver disease.
  • Heredity. Some forms of high triglycerides run in families.

What are the risks of high triglyceride levels?

  • A high triglyceride level is one of the components of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases your risk for heart disease.
  • A level above normal may be a risk factor for diabetes.
  • Very high triglycerides may increase the risk for inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

How are triglycerides measured?

Your healthcare provider can measure your triglyceride level with a simple blood test. You should not eat for 12 to 14 hours before the test. Your provider wants to know the amount of triglycerides being made by your liver rather than what is made from foods you have eaten.

How are high levels treated and prevented?

Here are things you can do to help you have a lower triglyceride level.

  • Lose weight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat less sugar and sugar-containing foods.
  • Eat several small meals and healthy snacks throughout the day instead of 2 or 3 large meals.
  • Drink less alcohol.
  • Limit the fat in your diet to less than 35% of your daily calories.
  • Eat 2 or 3 meals of fish, such as salmon or mackerel, each week. (Fish oil has been found to reduce triglycerides.)

If these lifestyle changes do not lower your triglyceride levels, your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine. The medicine can decrease the liver's production of triglycerides and clear triglycerides from your blood. The medicine will helps lower cholesterol and your risk for heart disease.


Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


HIA File card3649.htm Release 13/2010

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