Should You Worry About High Triglycerides
These blood fats can be one of the signs of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk for having a heart attack or stroke.
Until recently, triglycerides tended to get less attention when looking at cardiovascular risk compared to LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. There’s no question that extremely high levels spell trouble and can lead to acute pancreatitis. But what about treating lower levels of triglycerides? Recent evidence suggests you should work to reduce triglyceride levels of they are higher than normal, especially if you have heart disease or have other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure or smoking.
*All values in milligrams per deciliter
What Are The Symptoms
High blood triglycerides usually do not cause any symptoms. Untreated or uncontrolled high blood triglyceride levels may increase your risk of serious complications such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
Very high blood triglycerides can raise the risk of acute pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas that causes severe pain in the abdomen.
When To Get Tested
Screening: as part of a lipid profile during a regular medical exam at least once every four to six years for adults for children, at least once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21
Monitoring: may be done more frequently if you have risk factors for heart disease and/or if you are being treated for unhealthy lipid levels
Rare Causes Of High Triglycerides
Certain medical conditions and states can cause high triglyceride levels, but they are not as common a trigger as some of the better-known causes. These include:
Familial hypertriglyceridemia: A rare genetic disorder that causes high triglyceride levels that exceed 1,000 mg/dL. As the name suggests, this condition runs in families with members having abnormal levels of high-density lipoprotein , low-density lipoprotein , and triglycerides.
Pregnancy: Triglyceride levels rise in expectant mothers and tend to peak during the third trimester. However, after giving birth, most women experience a return to normal levels.
Liver disease: The liver plays an important role in processing fats. If it becomes compromised in some way, such as in the case of fatty liver disease, overproduction and accumulation of fat in liver cells can occur. This leads to excessive amounts of inflammation and even death if no treatment is implemented. Proper liver function can be disrupted by alcoholism, malnutrition, pregnancy, poisoning, diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and lupus.
Ask Your Doctor About Natural Supplements
Several natural supplements could have the potential to lower blood triglycerides. Always speak with your doctor before starting any supplements, as they can interact with other medications.
Note especially that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements in the same way as it regulates pharmaceuticals, and supplement quality can vary widely.
Below are a few of the main supplements that have been studied:
- Fish oil. Well known for its potent effects on heart health, fish oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease triglycerides and several other risk factors for heart disease (
Several supplements have been studied for their ability to lower triglyceride levels, including fish oil, fenugreek, garlic extract, guggul, and curcumin.
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How Quickly Do Cholesterol Or Triglyceride Levels Rise After A Fatty Meal
Over time, eating fatty foods can raise triglyceride and cholesterol levels beyond a healthy range, increasing your risk for heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.
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But the impact of a single fatty meal on cholesterol and triglycerides is a little more complicated. Here’s what you need to know.
Treatment Of High Triglycerides
In most cases, high triglycerides are managed by making lifestyle changes. You may be advised to:
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Eat less, particularly high fat foods.
- Increase the amount of fibre in your diet.
- Avoid high sugar foods such as lollies. Choose foods with a low glycaemic index such as legumes and wholegrain products.
- Eat more fish. Choose fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout. Omega-3 in high doses can reduce triglyceride levels.
- Cut back on alcohol. The kilojoules and sugar in alcoholic drinks can raise triglyceride levels.
- Lose excess body fat using a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise.
- Manage coexisting health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension effectively.
What Can Happen To Me If I Have High Triglycerides
A high triglyceride level is one of the signs of metabolic syndrome. This is a collection of health conditions that increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Eat Fatty Fish Twice Weekly
Fatty fish is well known for its benefits on heart health and ability to lower blood triglycerides.
This is mostly due to its content of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid that is considered essential, meaning you need to get it through your diet.
Both the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Heart Association recommend eating two servings of fatty fish per week to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke .
Whats more, one study showed that eating salmon twice a week significantly decreased blood triglyceride concentration .
Salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, and mackerel are a few types of fish that are especially high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Fatty fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Eating two servings per week may lower triglyceride levels and decrease the risk of heart disease.
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Treatment Options For High Triglycerides
Having high triglycerides can raise serious health concerns, so its important to boost HDL cholesterol and lower triglyceride levels. Here are some tips in order to lower triglycerides.
- Cut out sugar the American Heart Association recommends only five percent of your daily calories come from added sugar.
- Increase your fiber intake.
- Limit fructose fructose is a type of sugar that can contribute to high triglyceride levels.
- Eat a moderately low-fat diet a moderately low-fat diet has been shown to be more effective at lowering triglyceride levels, compared to a strict low-fat diet. The AHA recommends that 25 to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat.
- Be mindful of the fat you eat there are good fats and bad fats. Avoid saturated and trans fats, and consume more monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fat typically found in olive oil, for example.
- Increase your fish intake try salmon and sardines.
- Take triglyceride-lowering drugs if necessary and recommended by your doctor.
- Control diabetes if you have it.
By following these tips and working close with your doctor, you can have much success in lowering your triglyceride levels and protecting your heart.
Which Medicines Can Lower Triglycerides
For some people, good habits may not be enough. Medication might be needed. The decision for you and your doctor can be complicated because other health conditions are usually involved. Several types of medicine can improve levels. They include:
- High doses of omega-3s are needed to lower triglycerides and should be taken only under a doctor’s care. Epanova, Lovaza, and Vascepa are prescription forms of omega-3s.
You may feel side effects from these drugs. Be sure to talk it over with your doctor or pharmacist.
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Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors
High triglyceride levels are associated with a collection of disorders known as metabolic syndrome. A person with metabolic syndrome has an increased risk of developing diabetes, stroke or heart disease.A person is classed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three of the following factors:
- Central obesity excess fat in and around the stomach
- High blood pressure
- Higher than normal blood glucose levels
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High blood triglycerides.
Does Food Cause High Cholesterol
Cholesterol and triglycerides are both fatty substances called lipids, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While both these lipids may have a bad reputation, the body actually needs them to function.
Cholesterol is used to build cell membranes, produce hormones and create bile acids for digestion, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Because cholesterol is so important, the liver actually makes all the cholesterol the body needs.
The body can also get cholesterol from food, known as dietary cholesterol. Until recently, it was believed that dietary cholesterol played a significant role in causing high blood cholesterol. But in a major 2015 report, the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee said that saturated fats and carbohydrates actually have a much greater impact.
Though dietary cholesterol may not significantly affect blood cholesterol on its own, many cholesterol-rich foods also have lots of saturated fats, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So it’s still best to limit or avoid these foods, both for your cholesterol levels and your overall health.
The only exception is eggs. Eggs, specifically the yolks, have a lot of dietary cholesterol but are low in saturated fats.
So, will eating a fatty meal cause high cholesterol? No, not in the moment. But over time, eating a lot of saturated fats and carbohydrates can contribute to high cholesterol.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Pancreatitis From High Triglycerides
Symptoms of pancreatitis from high triglycerides are usually similar to but more severe than symptoms of pancreatitis from other causes. The higher the triglyceride levels, the more severe the symptoms.
Here are 3 common symptoms:
Abdominal pain from pancreatitis due to high triglycerides is usually felt in the mid-upper belly. The pain is sudden and worsens quickly. It spreads out in both directions like a thick belt. Pain may also radiate to your back. You usually have nausea and vomiting with the pain.
How Do Triglycerides Get Into The Blood
When we eat foods containing triglycerides, such as meat, dairy products, cooking oils and fats, they are absorbed by our intestines and packaged into parcels of fats and protein called chylomicrons . These carry the triglycerides in the blood stream to our tissues to be used for energy straight away, or stored for later.
The body also makes its own supply of triglycerides in the liver. This form is carried in a different type of lipoprotein known as VLDL cholesterol.
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My Cholesterol Is Normal But My Triglycerides Are High: Why Is That
So both your HDL and LDL levels are where they should be, but your triglycerides are still high why is that?
Triglycerides become elevated due to excess calories that do not get burned off, and in turned get stored in fat cells. Statins are medications that primarily lower LDL cholesterol, but depending on the medication dose, can lower Triglycerides from 20 to 40 percent, Sai Hanumanthu MD, with the TriHealth Heart Institute explains.
There are steps you can take to lower your triglyceride levels while promoting good cardiovascular health, including:
- Losing 5 to 10 pounds if overweight
- Avoiding alcohol
- Avoiding foods high in saturated fats
- Limiting simple carbs that have high processed sugars .
- Participating in 30 minutes of exercise per day
All these suggestions and routine follow up with a medical professional will lower you triglyceride level, even despite a low total cholesterol, Dr. Hanumanthu says.
Medications May Be Needed For High Triglyceride Levels
Sometimes, healthy eating and regular exercise cant lower high triglyceride levels. This may be the case, for example, if you have familial hypertriglyceridemia or if you already have heart disease. Your doctor may prescribe medication such as fibrates or nicotinic acids. Drugs to help lower high blood cholesterol may also be prescribed, if necessary.Suggestions for managing high triglyceride levels with medication include:
- Always take prescription medications exactly as instructed.
- See your doctor if you are having side effects from the medication. Known medication side effects may include indigestion, diarrhoea, fever or muscle problems.
- Dont assume that medications will somehow overcome the hazards of an unhealthy lifestyle. A healthy diet, regular exercise and maintaining an appropriate weight for your height are the most important management strategies for high triglycerides.
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How Are High Triglycerides Treated
The best ways to lower triglycerides include losing weight, eating fewer calories, and exercising regularly . Diet changes that may help include avoiding fats and sugar and refined foods . Also avoid alcohol and limit fats found in meats high in saturated fat, egg yolks, and whole milk products. Trans fats, found in fried foods and commercial baked products, are unhealthy. Eat healthy monounsaturated fatsolive, peanut, and canola oils. Eat fish high in omega-3 fatty acids instead of red meat.
If diet changes and exercise dont work, medicines such as nicotinic acid , fibrates , and omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglycerides. Niacin side effects limit its use. Cholesterol-lowering medications known as statins can also lower triglycerides, but their effect is limited.
Its also important to control diabetes since a high sugar level will also increase triglycerides.
Triglycerides And The Liver
High triglyceride levels can be a clue that you have fatty liver disease. Poor eating habits lead not only to high levels of fat in the bloodstream but increased storage of fat throughout the body, including in the liver. Elevations in liver function tests can indicate that fatty liver is present. Fatty liver usually does not cause symptoms, but unless reversed, fatty liver can lead to permanent liver damage and cirrhosis.
Finding Out Your Triglycerides Levels
Triglycerides are measured with a simple blood test. Triglyceride levels should be measured when you have a cholesterol test as they can also contribute to your risk of developing heart disease, and other disease of the heart and blood vessels. The triglyceride test measures the triglycerides carried in chylomicrons and VLDL cholesterol. National guidelines in the UK no longer recommend a fasting blood test .
What should your triglyceride levels be?
HEART UK experts state that we should aim for a non-fasting triglyceride level below 2.3mmol/L.
If your doctor has asked you to fast for a test then your triglyceride level should be below 1.7mmol/L. This “fasting test” number is lower because only the triglycerides made by the liver and carried in the VLDL cholesterol will be measured not the triglycerides you get from food. As you have not eaten, there will be no chylomicrons present in your blood.
What Is Being Tested
Triglycerides are a form of fat and a major source of energy for the body. This test measures the amount of triglycerides in the blood.
Most triglycerides are found in fat tissue, but some triglycerides circulate in the blood to provide fuel for muscles to work. After a person eats, an increased level of triglycerides is found in the blood as the body converts the energy not needed right away into fat. Triglycerides move via the blood from the gut to adipose tissue for storage. In between meals, triglycerides are released from fat tissue to be used as an energy source for the body. Most triglycerides are carried in the blood by lipoproteins called very low-density lipoproteins .
High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease , although the reason for this is not well understood. Certain factors can contribute to high triglyceride levels and to risk of CVD, including lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking cigarettes, consuming excess alcohol, and having medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.
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What Are High Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a kind of fat found in blood. Cholesterol is another kind. Stored in fat cells for later use, triglycerides are a major energy source. Normal amounts are important for good health. Eating more fat than the body burns can lead to high triglyceride levels . High triglyceride levels may result in hardening of the arteries , which increases risks of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. They can be part of metabolic syndrome, which also includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
Sometimes high triglyceride levels mean poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, low thyroid hormone levels , liver or kidney disease, or rare genetic conditions.
Causes Of High Triglycerides
A study that looked at 5.6k people who participated in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about one-third of US adults had high triglyceride levels .
A similar study of 5.6k people found that only about 2% of adults experienced extremely high levels , the leading cause of pancreas inflammation in the US .
High triglyceride levels can be caused by lifestyle and dietary factors, genetics, and other diseases .
On a mechanistic level, triglycerides will rise too much if :
- Your liver is producing too much triglyceride-dense VLDL cholesterol
- Your diet is excessive and unhealthy
- You have low lipoprotein lipase activity, which is the enzyme that breaks down triglycerides
All the potential causes outlined below affect one or more of these conditions.
Causes listed below are commonly associated with high triglycerides. Work with your doctor or another health care professional to get an accurate diagnosis.
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Is Any Test Preparation Needed To Ensure The Quality Of The Sample
Current standards recommend that testing be done when you are fasting. For 9 to 12 hours before the test, only water is permitted. Your health care practitioner may decide that you may be tested without fasting. Follow any instructions you are given and tell the person drawing your blood whether or not you have fasted. In addition, alcohol should not be consumed for 24 hours just before the test.