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Triglycerides and Your Health

What Are Triglycerides and How Do You Improve Them?

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If you're concerned about heart health, then you probably take steps to reduce your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure in check. But there's another important measure you should be aware of: your triglycerides. People with high triglycerides (called hypertriglyceridemia) often have low HDL ("good cholesterol") levels; this combination is considered by many experts to be associated with an increased risk for heart disease.

Triglycerides are the most common forms of fat found in the food you eat and in your body. The visible fat on chicken and steak, for example, is actually triglycerides. Your body stores the extra calories you eat inside your fat cells as triglycerides. Since your body regularly uses stored body fat as fuel between meals, the triglycerides stored in your fat cells are released into the bloodstream. The more excess body fat you have, and the more extra calories you eat, the higher your triglyceride levels are likely to be.

A simple blood cholesterol test (also known as a lipid profile), performed after fasting for 9-12 hours, can determine your triglyceride level. Less than 150 mg/dL of triglycerides is considered normal. Levels above 150 are considered "high" to different degrees: 150-199 mg/dL (borderline high), 200-499 mg/dL (high) and over 500 mg/dL (very high).

High triglycerides are correlated with a hardening and/or thickening of the artery walls, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which elevates your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. They can also be a "symptom" of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and poorly managed type 2 diabetes—additional health conditions that increase the risk of heart disease.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.

Member Comments

    I'm a health coach and while this article is informative, it does have some errors. The author writes - "Avoid sugar and fast-digesting carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates (like white flour) and sugars in any form (sugar, corn syrup, natural sweeteners, honey, etc.) are more likely to be stored as fat (triglycerides), especially if eaten in excess. Limit your intake of added sugars and make sure that you're not overeating carbs, which should make up no more than 60% of your total calories each day. When making carbohydrate choices, choose fiber-rich, unprocessed foods as much as possible, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans. These are slower-digesting and less likely to be stored as fat when compared to other carbohydrate sources." While it's great advice to avoid processed sugars and grains, it doesn't makes sense that slower-digesting carbs would be less likely to be stored as fat when compared to other "fast-acting" or higher glycemic foods. If glycogen stores are full in the muscles and liver, it doesn't matter if CHO are fast or slow acting, they will still be stored as fat.
    - 3/24/2015 4:26:43 PM
  • This article, while full of excellent--and accurate--informa
    tion, is incomplete. There are certain prescription medications such as hormonal birth control, steroids, beta blockers, anti-psychotics and even blood pressure medications that can elevate triglycerides. While all the author's advice for lowering your triglyceride levels are absolutely reasonable, one should also consider the potential for factors which might require close consultation with your physician. - 9/17/2014 2:31:11 AM
  • My husband has had triglycerides problems for years and its a constant yoyo. He cant take statins that causes body aches. He has tried fish oil and is currently taking prescription. Latest results this week was trig back up to 1591. It has been determined its hereditary and been going on for at least 10 years. I need a diet plan to follow. He is a country boy and likes country foods. Eats several fruits and vegetables a day and no or very limited alcohol. ( maybe a case a year, if that) Please help - 8/23/2014 8:56:06 AM
    Good advice since heart problems run in my family/ - 8/21/2014 4:22:11 PM
    Very informative. - 4/11/2014 10:18:30 AM
    My triglycerides count is 2.36 mmol/L. How do I convert this number to correspond with the number in your article? - 3/24/2014 11:19:27 AM
    Yes, there have been five clinical trials whose subgroup (high TGs) analyses have all shown an outcome benefit (fewer heart attacks, strokes, etc.) when high TGs are lowered medically. Vascepa is effective in lowering TG levels and has a good safety profile, notably better than fenofibrates. Its manufacturer should be permitted to inform those 36 million high TG patients, and their doctors and insurers, of the ANCHOR trial data, and to market Vascepa for the high TG indication. Only then will these patients, in consultation with their doctors, be able to make informed decisions whether to use Vascepa to lower their high TGs. - 3/22/2014 11:27:21 PM
  • CMM3RD
    I echo ZMANINMD's comment about the relatively new drug Vascepa. If your TGs are over 200 and persist above that level after you have tried diet and exercise, do a little research on Vascepa and then ask your doctor (who may never have heard of it because it is new and its manufacturer is a small company), to consider whether you should try it. It's a highly purified Omega 3 called EPA, which stands for Eicosapentanoic Acid Ethyl Ester. Multiple clinical trials showed it to be effective in lowering elevated TGs, and it also lowers some markers of systemic inflammation. Even better is that it is very safe, in particular it does not, unlike the older drug Lovaza, which your doctor probably has heard of, raise LDLc ("bad" cholesterol) and it has no "black box" warning of an association with atrial fibrillation. Also, in one trial, in addition to lowering elevated TGs, it actually raised HDLc ("good" cholesterol) slightly. The FDA approved it in 2012. Good luck! - 3/20/2014 5:52:13 PM
  • CHICAGO471
    I just love this site each moring when i get up , the first thing i do is check my sparks . i love all the different receipes & have tryed quite a few . just love all the info & different sites that i can check out thank you so much. job well done. i espically love that the receipes have all the calories , etc listed - 3/20/2014 9:28:27 AM
  • HAZEL12310
    Good information. - 3/20/2014 9:05:48 AM
  • Thank you ! - 2/15/2014 4:22:29 PM
    I thought I would pass along my experience with a new Omega 3 prescription drug. I use VASCEPA at 2g and previously tried Plusepa and Krill oil to lower my triglycerides and ease the muscle pain I have by taking atorvastatin. I also tried OTC Niacin at 750mg and COQ-10 and all I was able to gain was a case of reflux. I stopped taking all the supplements and the reflux went away but not the dull ache from the statin. Then I heard about this new prescription drug Vascepa. After educating my cardiologist he gave me a prescription and I started this drug in June. Within 3 weeks I was virtually ache free and could lift weights and I am now working out 3 days and sometimes 5 days per week. Pain free and my entire cholesterol profile is down on average 9% since my last test and even down compared to a year's worth of tests. My Cardiologist let me know that if my test results remain the same on my next visit he will lower my statin dose to the lowest level. It has taken over 2 years to get there and adding Vascepa did the trick. - 11/9/2013 9:00:29 PM
    I love this site. I learn more basics from this site than any other. And, I do incorporate the much needed information into my life profile. I left weights at the gym. I used to do both cardio, and lift. I had to keep my cardio to a minimum, due to dropping weight fast. I am a small person 5' 6", 130 lbs, and do not want to lose any more weight. In fact, I would like to pick up about 5 lbs. My cholesterol is slightly high. How do I follow the program for lowering my cholesterol, and not lose weight. I eat well already, but, I need carbs to help keep the weight on. I can miss two meals, and the weight loss will show. Thanks for any and all advice. - 10/22/2013 8:40:55 AM
  • So basically EVERY fat person has triglycerides because triglycerides come from the stored fat. The more fat you have the higher the triglycerides. So if you ARE LOSING WEIGHT you are RELEASING the stored fat (triglycerides) into your blood stream so that it can be released from your body in some form. Either by using the energy or solid or liquid waste. But there are slim people who have high triglycerides. So it is logical that the problem is not fat but how the body processes the fat. Otherwise slim people would not have this problem. Chemical processes of the body are more the cause. Triglycerides are a symptom not the problem. - 5/2/2013 10:04:03 AM

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