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.
Eat More Protein & Unsaturated Fats
Compared to a diet high in carbs, diets rich in protein and unsaturated fat reduced triglycerides by about 10 mg/dL in a study of 164 people with high blood pressure .
Diets high in monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and avocados, decreased triglyceride levels better than a high-carb diet over 7-weeks in 85 people with an increased risk of heart disease. An olive-oil-rich diet also decreased the buildup of triglycerides in the liver .
A diet high in monounsaturated fats and omega-3s decreased triglyceride levels in 17 men with moderately increased triglycerides .
Skip The Sweet Drinks
One of the easiest things you can do to lower your triglycerides is to cut out sweetened drinks. Sodas and other sugary drinks are packed with fructose, a known offender when it comes to boosting triglycerides. Drink no more than 36 ounces of sweet sippers per week — that means three 12-ounce cans of soda.
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How To Lower Your Triglycerides Level
Typically, there aren’t any symptoms of high triglycerides. That’s why doctors do a blood test also called a lipid panel or lipid blood test to check your triglyceride levels, along with your cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults have this test done every four to six years, and more frequently if you have a family history of heart disease.
- Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter is a normal level of triglycerides
- Between 150 to 199 mg/dL is considered borderline high
- Between 200 to 499 mg/dL is considered high
- Above 500 mg/dL is considered very high
Obesity, type 2 diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are associated with higher triglycerides, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
Unless a person has very high triglycerides or a history of heart problems, lifestyle changes are the first option to lower triglycerides, says Patel. These include exercising, drinking less alcohol, managing your weight, and dietary changes. For instance, losing 5% to 10% of your weight can lead to a 40 mg/dL reduction in triglycerides, according to a July 2011 study in Diabetes Care.
Medications, such as statins, fibrates, and niacin, can also help lower triglycerides by either preventing your body from making more triglycerides or decreasing the absorption of fat from food, Patel says. If your triglycerides are over 500, then medication is typically prescribed, due to the risk of pancreatitis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
What Vitamins And Supplements Help Lower Triglyceride Levels
Fish oil lowers triglycerides. The dose needed to reduce triglycerides is 1 to 4 grams of EPA/DHA per day. Four grams per day has been shown to reduce triglycerides by 25% to 30%. People with the highest triglycerides benefit most. It is worth noting that non-marine omega 3 fatty acids do not appear to lower triglycerides in the same way. The prescription form of synthetic omega-3 fatty acids, Lovasa, Vascepa, or Epanova is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for people with triglycerides over 500 mg/dL.
Niacin is another supplement for lowering triglycerides. Both regular and extended-release nicotinic acid has been shown to reduce triglycerides by up to 40% . Niacin has the added benefit of increasing HDL and lowering LDL. The high doses of niacin needed to lower triglycerides can cause uncomfortable flushing in some people. To avoid this, niacin can be taken with baby aspirin, with food, or with an extended-release form of niacin/nicotinic acid . Inositol-hexanicotinate, marketed as no-flush niacin, is NOT the same thing and contains very little nicotinic acid.
Fibers, such as chia, flax, psyllium, or bran, help lower triglycerides. Fibrates, a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs that have been used for decades, also have a triglyceride-lowering effect through the same general mechanisms.
There are other supplements with limited research supporting their benefit in hypertriglyceridemia.
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What Causes High Triglycerides
Aside from consuming a high-fat and/or high-carb diet, other lifestyle factors can contribute to high triglycerides, specifically excess weight, lack of exercise, drinking too much alcohol and smoking. Dr. Malaney adds that it can also be a side effect of certain medications, such as some birth control pills, beta blockers, antipsychotics medications, and corticosteroids.
What Causes Levels To Fluctuate
Triglyceride levels fluctuate naturally in response to many factors, including calorie intake and time of day. Eating a meal can cause an increase in triglycerides, which the body may store to use later when it needs energy.
These fluctuations are typically short-lived, but they are part of the reason why doctors may ask a person to fast before getting a lipid profile blood test.
Some health conditions may increase the risk of higher triglyceride levels. According to the
- hormone medications
- immunosuppressant drugs
Anyone who is uncertain about the side effects of their specific medication should speak with their doctor.
A person can use a few treatments to help lower their triglyceride levels.
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Reduction Of Or Total Removal Of Trans Fat From Meals
Trans fatty acids are the end products of the solidification of vegetable oils by the addition of hydrogen molecules. The two types of trans-fat are natural and industrial trans-fat.
Natural trans fat is found in animal products like milk and they occur in small quantities. Artificial trans-fat, however, are produced industrially when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to solidify them.
Trans fat adds more flavor and texture to processed foods. It is also used to fry foods and meats.
Trans fat has been known to raise the LDL levels and lower the HDL levels in the blood. The presence of trans fat in the blood increases the possibility of a stroke or cardiovascular disease.
Ask The Doctor: What Should I Do About High Triglycerides
Q. On my last blood test, my triglycerides were 280. Should I be worried about that? My doctor wants me to start taking something called Lopid. Is there another solution?
A. Under the current national cholesterol guidelines, fasting triglycerides should be under 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood . Your level is almost twice that, and well into the high triglycerides category, which begins at 200 mg/dL.
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Eliminate Or Reduce Alcohol
Drinking can also raise your triglycerides.
Alcohol stops your liver from making lipoprotein lipase an enzyme that breaks down triglycerides. As a result, drinking increases your blood triglycerides.
Cutting down on alcohol consumption is a good way to get your blood markers back into a normal range.
If Youre Concerned About High Triglycerides Nurse Practitioners Of Florida Can Help
Whether you need a lipid panel or a full treatment plan, weve got you covered. At Nurse Practitioners of Florida, we have a dedicated team of certified nurse practitioners who have an unwavering commitment to providing you with care and compassion. When you call any of our locations, you will be greeted by a live person whos ready to offer acute medical care as well as preventive measures including flu vaccines. And, above everything else, you will be treated like family.
If you need assistance, call us or fill out our online contact form.
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How To Lower Triglycerides With Lifestyle Changes And Medication
- You can lower triglycerides by exercising, losing weight, and drinking less alcohol.
- If your triglycerides levels are very high like over 500 milligrams per deciliter your doctor may also recommend medication to lower triglycerides.
- Triglycerides, like cholesterol, are associated with a higher risk of heart disease if your levels are too high, though many people effectively lower these levels with lifestyle changes and medication.
- This article was reviewed by Jason R. McKnight, MD, MS, a family medicine physician and clinical assistant professor at Texas A& M College of Medicine.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Like cholesterol, triglycerides are a form of fat, or lipid in fact, they’re the most common form of fat in a person’s body. After you eat, fat and calories that aren’t immediately put to use by your metabolism are stored as triglycerides in your body’s fat cells.
“You need triglycerides in the body for an energy source,” says Sanjiv Patel, MD, a cardiologist at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center. “The issue becomes if you have too much.”
Here’s what you need to know about cholesterol and triglycerides, and how to lower your triglyceride levels if they get too high.
/11lower Your Carb Intake
Just like the added sugar, extra carbs in your diet also get converted into triglycerides. Low carb diet has been linked to lower triglyceride levels.
Studies have found that people getting a lower number of calories from carbs had lower triglyceride levels as compared to people who received more calories from carbs.
People who were kept on a low carb diet for one year lost more weight and had lower triglyceride levels as compared to people who had a high carb diet, finds a study.
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Changing Your Diet To Lower Triglycerides
Limiting sugars, refined carbs, and alcohol is crucial to get the best results.
Diets higher in fiber and fish may also help to lower triglycerides. Those with severely elevated levels may respond better to low-fat diets, but this is not a universal finding.
When attempting to lower triglyceride levels, many find success through altering their eating habits. Here are the dietary approaches worth trying, according to science.
Follow A Lower Carb Diet
Much like added sugar, extra calories from carbs in your diet are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells.
Not surprisingly, low carb diets have been linked to lower blood triglyceride levels .
A review of 12 randomized controlled trials found that people following reduced carb diets typically saw a reduction in triglyceride levels at 6, 12, and 24 months. Across these studies, triglyceride levels decreased the most 6 months after starting a reduced calorie diet .
A 2020 review compared low fat and low carb diets. Researchers found that 612 months after starting their relative diets, those on the low carb diet had greater decreases in triglyceride levels than those on a low fat diet .
Following a low carb diet can lead to a significant reduction in blood triglyceride levels, at least in the short term, when compared with a low fat diet.
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How To Lower Triglycerides And Cholesterol Naturally
Your genes, diet, and lifestyle all affect your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Some people naturally produce more triglycerides and cholesterol than others. This is based on their genetics and family history. Still, these levels are just part of your overall lipid levels, and lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to keep your numbers within a healthy range.
Taking Medications To Lower Triglycerides
However, most medications and even supplements can come with significant side effects. Always ask your doctor before starting any new supplements or medications.
In addition to supplements, several studies show certain medications may reduce triglycerides. Recommendations to take medications focus on reducing the risk of pancreatitis as well as heart disease.
The evidence to support the idea that lowering triglycerides with medications can provide cardiac protection is mixed. Many isolated studies show no benefits, but a meta-analysis of multiple studies suggests minor benefits.42
Ask your doctor if any of these medications may be right for you:
Statins The most commonly prescribed class of cholesterol-lowering drugs has a mild triglyceride-lowering effect ranging from 10% reduction at low doses to 30% at higher doses.43
Fibrates Drugs such as gemfibrozil can lower triglycerides by 30-50%.44 These drugs should be used with caution when taken along with statins or warfarin due to drug interactions. Those with a history of gallstone disease should not take fibrates.
Although fibrates do lower triglycerides, it is not clear that they reduce cardiac events or the risk of death.
Prescription niacin Niacin can reduce triglycerides by up to 30%.45 Niacin may cause liver disease, and may worsen insulin resistance or blood sugar control in those with type 2 diabetes. Those with peptic ulcer disease should not take niacin.
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What Are Triglycerides And Why Are They Important
“Triglycerides are a type of blood lipid and they’re made up of free fatty acids. They’re stored in your body fat, but you’ll also find them in your blood,” says nutritionist Jessica Ash, CNC, HHC, FDN-P and founder of Jessica Ash Wellness. “And because your liver makes them, they’re also found in your liver and then your tissues. Our body gets triglycerides either from the food that you eat or from the body it manufactures triglycerides in the liver.”
“It’s important to know that triglycerides, like cholesterol, are normally protective . But triglycerides are used for energy, whereas cholesterol is used for steroid hormone production,” Ash explains. “And our muscles are specifically what like to uptake fatty acids or triglycerides. So they’re fatty acids that the body usually uses for energy.”
Your body needs energy from food to function. But excess energy, especially from sources like simple carbohydrates, can be stored as triglycerides, which can create issues if your triglyceride levels are elevated above the normal range. According to the Mayo Clinic, if your triglycerides are over 150 mg/dL, then you’re at a greater risk for developing heart disease.
Some People May Respond Best To A Low
For those with severely elevated triglycerides , there is a case for low-fat diets being equally good if not better than low carb in some situations.
One study finds that those with triglycerides below 400 mg/dL respond best to low-carb diets, but those with triglycerides greater than 400 mg/dL respond best to low-fat diets.24
However, case reports document a decrease in severely elevated triglycerides with low-carb, high-fat diets.25
Its important to understand the cause of elevated triglycerides, as that may impact the proposed dietary treatment. If someone has a genetic cause, such as familial chylomicronemia or lipoprotein lipase deficiency, a low-fat diet may be more effective.26
Aside from these extreme examples, there is no evidence to support a low-fat diet as being better than a low-carb diet for reducing elevated triglycerides.
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You Are Not Balancing Your Blood Sugars
Eating too much food with added sugars can also lead to elevated triglyceride levels. Surprisingly or not, added sugars make up more than 13% of an average American’s daily caloric intake, well above the Dietary Guidelines recommendation of less than 10% of total calories per day.
Added sugars can be present in prepackaged foods, in foods prepared away from home, as add-ins to your coffee and tea or as ingredients in your baked goods .
When you eat sugar, your liver breaks down its carbohydrates into glucose and transforms them into glycogen that is stored to use as energy later. The liver can only convert a limited amount of glucose into glycogen at one time any excess will be stored as fatty acids. These fatty acids are then used to make triglycerides, which are stored in the fat cells and contribute to body fat.
Under normal conditions, your pancreas also makes the hormone insulin to respond to the influx of glucose present in the bloodstream. Insulin, which acts as a key to the body’s cells, aids glucose to pass into the cells for energy. When the key and the lock do not fit well, glucose may not move into cells efficiently or at all, causing the pancreas to make more insulin. Eventually, the pancreas may become sluggish in producing insulin, which can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes over time.
/11limit Your Sugar Intake
Most people consume double the daily recommended amount of sugar every day. Not many know this, extra sugar in your diet can turn into triglycerides, increasing your risk of heart diseases.
Studies have found that people who consumed 25 per cent of their daily calories from sugar were twice more likely to die from heart disease as compared to people who consumed only 10 per cent of their calories from sugar.
Replacing your sugary drinks with water can lower the triglyceride levels by 28 mg/dL.
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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.