Weight Loss And Triglyceride Levels
Weight loss is an important tool to get to a healthy triglyceride level. Because triglycerides are essentially fat stores, reducing the total amount of fat in the body will result in a lower triglyceride level in blood tests.
Even modest weight loss of 5% to 10% of total body weight helps to lower your triglyceride level. This means that going from a body weight of 300 lb to between 270 lb and 285 lb makes a big difference and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and pancreatitis.
How To Lower Cholesterol And Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of lipid, or fat, your body produces to store extra calories and provide energy. Cholesterol is another lipid that circulates in your blood. Your body uses cholesterol to build cells and produce hormones.
Both triglycerides and cholesterol are essential for your health but having levels that are too high puts your health at risk. Living a healthy lifestyle helps to keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels within a normal range.
Fats: Choose The Right Ones
The body needs fats to function correctly, but some fats are more healthful than others. Choosing healthful fats may help reduce triglyceride levels.
Solid fats come from meat, full-fat dairy products, and some tropical oils, such as coconut and palm oil. These foods contain trans fats and saturated fats.
Trans fats and saturated fats raise triglyceride levels, so people should try to replace them wherever possible.
Unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats , can help lower triglyceride levels. Avocados and olive oil contain monounsaturated fats, also a healthful choice.
Omega-3 fats are present in cod liver oil, flaxseeds, and cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines. People can add PUFAs to their diet by eating these foods.
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Know Your Triglyceride Numbers
A blood test called a lipid panel checks both your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Usually, your doctor will ask that you fast, or not eat or drink anything other than water, for 9-12 hours before the test. Youâll get blood taken from a vein in your arm. Some labs offer non-fasting lipid panels, or they may prick your finger for blood.
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline: 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very High: 500 mg/dL or above
Anyone over age 20 needs to get regular tests to track their cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to the American Heart Association.
Treatment For High Triglycerides
Lifestyle changes and, in some cases, medications can reduce triglycerides. Having healthy habits is often enough to significantly bring down triglycerides and improve heart health:
- Make changes to your diet. Replace simple carbohydrates, foods and drinks made with added sugars or white flour with whole grain sources of carbohydrates. Swap unhealthy saturated and trans fats for healthier unsaturated fats found in plants, such as olive and canola oils. Saturated fats are found in animal products, such as fatty cuts of meat, poultry with skin and full-fat dairy products. Trans fats are mostly found in foods made with hydrogenated oils, including fried foods and commercially prepared baked goods. Opt for foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, like salmon and mackerel, walnuts and flaxseeds, because they are known to help lower triglyceride levels.
- Get regular exercise. Strive to be physically active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. If you dont have a full 30 minutes to devote to fitness, break exercise up into shorter sessions throughout the day.
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing 5% to 10% of your body weight can decrease triglycerides.
- Curb your alcohol intake. If you have very high triglycerides, your healthcare provider may recommend that you avoid drinking any alcohol.
Eat The Right Foods For You
As weve seen, there are some broad dietary guidelines you can follow to help lower your triglyceride levels.
But our research shows that everyones blood fat responses to the foods they eat are personal, with more than 10 times the difference between some people.
ZOE runs the largest nutritional study of its kind, with over 15,000 participants so far. Based on our studies, weve developed a personalized nutrition program that takes your unique biology into account to help you improve your metabolic health.
Using the latest scientific techniques, the ZOE at-home test analyzes your triglyceride and blood sugar levels after eating, as well as the microbes in your gut.
Based on your results, the ZOE program then gives you advice on the best foods and food combinations for your body and your long-term health goals.
You can take a free quiz to find out more.
What Causes High Triglycerides
Have you put on a few extra pounds? Your yearly blood tests probably reflect an increase in triglycerides. These triglycerides are fats that are important for your body, but too many of them can hurt your heart and lead to other health problems.
Triglyceride fats can come from the food we eat. They are also made by the liver when we eat starchy or sugary foods. Whether you eat triglycerides or your body makes them, the energy is either used or stored. When your body cant use all the triglycerides it consumes or produces, triglycerides are stored as fat cells.
Just like cholesterol, high triglycerides can clot arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. They can also lead to pancreatitis in high levels. The good news is that there are many ways to start lowering your triglycerides and bringing your body back to good health. In the following medically reviewed slides, we explain the role of triglycerides in the body and how you can work to reduce high triglyceride levels.
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What Are Normal And High Triglyceride Levels
The National Cholesterol Education Program sets guidelines for triglyceride levels:
- Normal levels: Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter
- Borderline high:150 to 199
- High: 200 to 499
- Very high: 500 or more
Elevated levels may lead to heart disease, especially in people with low levels of good cholesterol and high levels of bad cholesterol. The same is true if you have type 2 diabetes.
Experts once debated how important triglycerides are, but it now seems clear that higher levels are linked to problems such as heart disease.
One thing is clear, though: A good diet and exercise plan can lower triglyceride levels, improve cholesterol, and decrease the chance of heart disease.
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How Is Cholesterol Measured
Most people with high cholesterol feel perfectly well and often have no symptoms.
Visit your GP to find out your cholesterol level and to find out what you need to do if your levels of bad cholesterol are high.
For people aged 45 years and over, you can have your cholesterol checked as part of a Heart Health Check with your GP.
If you identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, you should have your cholesterol checked from age 18 years.
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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.
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Limit Your Sugar Intake
Added sugar is a big part of many peoples diets.
While the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 100150 calories of added sugar per day, one study found that the average American eats about 308 calories of added sugar daily .
Added sugar is commonly found in sweets, soft drinks, and fruit juice.
Extra sugar in your diet may be turned into triglycerides, which can lead to an increase in blood triglyceride levels, along with other heart disease risk factors.
A 2020 review that included data on 6,730 people found that those who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages regularly were over 50% more likely to have high triglycerides, compared with those who did not drink them regularly .
Another study found that consuming high amounts of added sugar is also associated with higher blood triglyceride levels in children .
Fortunately, several studies have shown that low carb diets can lead to a decrease in blood triglyceride levels .
Even a simple change such as replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with water could decrease triglycerides in some people .
Minimizing added sugar in your diet from sugary beverages and sweets can reduce your blood triglyceride levels.
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How Are Triglycerides Measured
Your doctor may give you a common test called a lipid panel. It checks for different types of cholesterol, including the levels of the “good” kind and the “bad” kind. The American Heart Association recommends that everyone 21 and older get a lipid panel at least every 5 years.
The levels are checked after an overnight fast. Fat from a recent meal can muddy the picture.
These tests are important because you rarely have any symptoms when your triglycerides are high, unlike with many other conditions.
What Other Lifestyle Changes Help Lower Triglycerides
Lifestyle strategies are a way to lower triglycerides naturally.
Weight loss has a positive effect on triglycerides. For every 5% to 10% weight reduction, triglycerides may be lowered by 20%. Another way to look at this: For every kilogram lost, triglycerides may be reduced by 2%.
Increasing physical activity lowers triglycerides.
- Aerobic activity of any kind, especially when done after a meal, uses up triglycerides that are in the blood ready to be used as fuel. This not only lowers triglycerides but also helps with abdominal obesity.
- Exercise is most effective for lowering triglycerides when they are very elevated. If triglycerides are optimal , exercise will not further lower the level.
All together, intensive lifestyle strategies can reduce triglycerides by 50% or more over a year. Lifestyle strategies can enable people to effectively reduce triglycerides without medicine or drugs, plus there are many other positive effects on other aspects of health and well-being. This is the recommended approach of the American Heart Association for anyone with triglycerides greater than optimal .
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Add More Fiber To Your Diet
Fiber is the part of your food that isnt digested, and its important because it helps you feel full. According to a study published in February 2019 in the journal Current Developments in Nutrition, dietary fiber can reduce the risk of high triglycerides in young to middle-aged adults who are overweight or obese. In general, fiber-rich foods also have carbohydrate content that is more complex and can lead to more gradual absorption by the body, which can also help temper the triglyceride increase that occurs after meals, says Michael Wesley Milks, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Fiber is found in whole grains and nutrient-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables.
Controlling High Triglycerides: Medical Treatment
People with heart disease and high triglycerides may need medication to bring down their levels.
- Fibrates can lower triglycerides. They modestly improve cholesterol levels, too.
- Fish oilwith omega-3 fatty acids can help keep triglycerides under control. Ask your doctor whether you should use prescription fish oil. Omega-3 acids from plant sources like flaxseed may help.
- Niacin can lower triglycerides by up to 50%. It’s available as a non-prescription supplement and as a prescription drug.
Remember that to stay healthy and keep your triglycerides down, you still have to focus on improving your lifestyle.
When you talk to your doctor, discuss all of the medicines, supplements, and vitamins you take. Some common drugs — like beta-blockers, birth control pills, and diuretics — can cause high triglycerides as a side effect. It’s possible that one of them could be causing your problem.
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What Can You Do To Lower High Triglyceride Levels
Because your body can get triglycerides from the food you eat, it makes sense that changing your diet can help if you’re concerned with your triglyceride levels. In general, according to Ash, it’s important to reduce your intake of refined flour, processed and packaged foods that contain trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and excess carbs and sugars that are bad news for your health.
One key nutrient to keep in mind is fat. According to Ash, switching out the types of fat you eat can make a huge difference. “Trans fats and polyunsaturated fats, like the fat in canola oil, are going to be the biggest offenders because they burden the liver, which is going to manufacture more triglycerides in order to make more LDL. So what we’re eating and how we’re supporting the liver is really what’s going to matter when it comes to triglycerides,” she says.
That said, fat is only one factor to consider when it comes to food. “Specific to food, fat itself is often not the culprit,” says registered dietitian Amanda Archibald, founder of The Genomic Kitchen. “Excess calories from alcohol or starchy/sugary foods are often more complicit in producing high triglycerides.”
If your doctor has told you your triglyceride levels are on the high side, it’s worth asking them what foods to avoid and what lifestyle changes could help. Chances are, you’ll want to exercise more and go easy on trans fats and simple carbs.
What Are Risk Factors For High Triglycerides
Factors that may raise triglyceride levels include:
- Excessive alcohol use.
- American Academy of Family Physicians. High Cholesterol. Accessed 11/182/2021.
- American Heart Association. Cholesterol. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting Your Cholesterol Checked. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- Hormone Health Network. Triglycerides. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- MedlinePlus. Triglycerides Test. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- Merck Manual Consumer Version. Overview of Cholesterol and Lipid Fats. Accessed 11/18/2021.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. High Blood Triglycerides. Accessed 11/18/2021.
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How Are High Triglycerides Diagnosed
High blood triglycerides are diagnosed with a routine blood test called a lipid panel. A lipid panel measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the blood.
Triglyceride level ranges are:
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
- A little bit high: 150 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high: 500 mg/dL or greater
- Moderately high: 500 to 886 mg/dL
- Very high: Greater than 886 mg/dL
Address Underlying Health Issues
Remember, although triglycerides can be high due to bad lifestyle and dietary choices, they can also be high due to an underlying health condition. The most important thing is to work with your doctor to find out whats causing your high triglyceride levels and to treat any underlying conditions!
For example, triglycerides can be high due to liver disease, infections, underactive thyroid , autoimmune disease, or some genetic disorders just to name a few .
In these cases, simply changing your diet or lifestyle wont help address the underlying issue and may actually be harmful!
In addition, high triglyceride levels can be dangerous for your body. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe triglyceride-lowering medication.
Thats why, if your triglycerides are elevated, you should discuss the lifestyle and dietary changes listed below with your doctor. None of these strategies should ever be done in place of what your doctor recommends or prescribes!
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Ways To Reduce Elevated Triglycerides