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:
- Nicotinic acid
- 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.
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.
When Should You See A Doctor
Because high triglyceride levels usually do not cause any symptoms, theyre typically spotted when a doctor orders a blood test that includes a lipid panel.
If you do not have high risk factors, including health conditions and some lifestyle factors, a doctor will order a lipid panel every few years to check cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
If your lipid panel results show above normal triglyceride levels, a doctor may suggest lifestyle changes focused on diet and exercise. If diet and exercise do not have the desired effect, they may recommend medication such as statins or fibrates.
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Diets High In Calories Carbs And Fats
Triglyceride levels increase with a positive energy-intake balance . In other words, when you eat more than your body needs, the surplus is transformed into fat, including triglycerides. Its easier to overeat when your diet is high in calories and contains lots of carbs and saturated fats .
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are among the most common causes of high triglycerides. But wait we said that high-fat diets are bad, so doesnt that mean a low-fat diet should be beneficial? Not quite .
Saturated, unhealthy fats are bad. But your body needs healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and fish oil to keep your triglyceride levels normal and to maintain your overall health. If you dont get enough dietary fats, your body will revert to transforming the sugars you consume into fats .
This goes against the popular but unfounded belief that your body wont store fat as long as you dont eat fats. In truth, high-carbohydrate diets can be much worse than high-fat diets for your triglyceride levels. Many scientists advocate that high-carb, low-fat diets likely also contributed to the obesity epidemic in America over the past few decades .
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 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.
And Limit Unhealthy Ones
Namely, trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils, which sometimes show up in baked goods, snack foods, fried foods, refrigerated dough , nondairy creamers, and margarines.
Eating these harmful fats can send your triglycerides up in just a few short weeks, not to mention raise your LDL cholesterol and lower your HDL cholesterol.
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Factors That Contribute To High Triglycerides
To assess what kind of treatment might be best for you or if youll need treatment at all your doctor will first look at your blood lipid levels, paying attention to the ratio of triglycerides to total cholesterol, as well as your personal and family history and existing risk factors, says Jacoby.
The 2018 joint guidelines from the AHA and the American College of Cardiology recommend that anyone age 20 or older who has triglyceride levels of 175 to 499 mg/dL first be treated for the underlying medical causes that can contribute to poor blood lipid levels. These include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
If youve been diagnosed with one of these conditions, your doctor may recommend specific management techniques, which could include many of the lifestyle changes mentioned below, as well as medications.
Some medications, such as oral estrogen medications, beta-blockers, and certain corticosteroids and osteoporosis drugs, may also raise triglyceride levels. If one or more of your medications contributes to your high triglyceride levels, its important to talk to your doctor about how your medications may be affecting you and what that means for your health. According to Dr. Freeman, your doctor might add a medication, switch medications, or recommend changes to your diet to lower your levels. Those changes often include reducing your intake of added sugar, simple carbs, and high-fat foods and moving to a low-fat, whole-foodsbased diet.
Consider Cutting Back On Carbs
You dont have to go full keto. But some research suggests that lower carb diets are tied to healthier triglyceride levels.
How low should you go? In a 2006 study, people who consumed about a quarter of their calories from carbs lowered their triglycerides more than those who got more than half their calories from carbs.
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Limit Your Added Sugar
You know that too much of the sweet stuff is bad news, and thats definitely the case here. When youre eating sugary foods, its easy to end up chowing down on more calories than your body needs.
The excess will be turned into triglycerides, which can lead to serious trouble:One 15-year study found that people who got 25 percent of their calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who ate significantly less.
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
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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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.
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.
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Foods That Can Lower Triglycerides
Some studies suggest that essential fatty acids, such as omega-3 fatty acids, can help lower triglyceride levels.
This type of fat is found in:
- Flax seeds
- Canola oil
Fish oil or omega-3 supplements may be a helpful addition to your diet. However, before taking supplements, you should speak with your healthcare provider.
Also make sure to eat plenty of vegetables, which help lower triglycerides in part because they don’t contain a lot of calories, sugars, or bad fats. Certain vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and spinach contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid that may lower triglycerides.
Also, choose foods made with soy, which is a healthy source of protein. Some research suggests that regular soy protein consumption can lower triglycerides.
Adding foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet may help lower triglyceride levels. If possible, aim to eat wild-caught fatty fish at least twice a week. You should also try to get three to five servings of veggies daily, particularly non-starchy ones.
Cut Back On Sugar And Refined Carbs
Different carbohydrate-loaded foods also contain very different nutritional levels.
Dr. Nissen recommends scaling back or eliminating:
- Whole grains.
- Brown rice.
Dr. Nissen advises that increasing your fiber intake may lower triglyceride levels. If you have high triglyceride levels, theres a good chance you dont ingest close to the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day, he says.
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Choose Healthy Fats Over Saturated Fats
Another way to lower triglycerides and cholesterol naturally is by eating healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol by increasing fat metabolism, according to the AHA. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish, such as salmon and herring, olive oil, and dietary supplements. For people with high triglycerides, the AHA recommends prescription-strength omega-3 fatty acid supplements at a dose of 4 grams per day, although its still best to get it from foods. Saturated fats, which come mainly from meat sources, should be limited to no more than 5 to 6 percent of your total daily calories, and your daily intake of cholesterol should be no more than 300 mg, according to the AHA.
Dietary And Lifestyle Recommendations
1) Follow a diet low in fat, with less than 30% of daily calories from total fat. Choose polyunsaturated fats over saturated fat:
An example of someone eating a 1500Kcal diet and aiming for less than 30% fat would be less than 50 grams of fat per day. If your triglycerides do not reduce with this, then you may need to aim for less. You will see a Dietitian who will discuss this with you.
Grams of fat to aim for: ____________grams per day
Fat should be spread out throughout the day, rather than all eaten at one mealtime. Just one large, fatty meal can increase your risk of developing pancreatitis . A meal should not contain more than 15g of fat at one time.
If your triglycerides are severely raised then it will be suggested that you follow a very strict low fat diet to bring the levels down as quickly as possible .
How do you know how much fat is in foods?
Fat is found in many different foods and drinks for example dairy products, meats, oils, nuts and cakes.
If you have a packaged food then reading the food label is the best way to identify how much fat it contains. When you look at the back of a food label, the nutritional information is often given on a table similar to below. Food labels provide information about many different nutrients found in foods including the amount of fat.
When looking at food labels per 100g you should aim for:
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Triglycerides Level Chart Foods That Raise And Lower It
We know that triglycerides have a direct link with heart health. Yet, the reports of elevated triglycerides levels worldwide are alarming. Recently, The US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that more than 25% of US adults suffer from high levels of triglycerides. The survey that lasted for 8 years provides alarming rates of triglyceride patients. It also states, around 37% of the patients to be on medications for triglycerides.
However, we are blessed with foods that can help lower triglyceride levels and help in leading a healthy life. Before reaching for the foods, lets first understand triglycerides better to treat it accordingly.
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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Medications For High Triglycerides
If diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes are not sufficiently reducing your triglycerides or your doctor feels your numbers are too high to address the problem with lifestyle interventions alone, they may recommend medication. Some common drugs prescribed to lower triglycerides include:
Statins Statins are appropriate as a cornerstone treatment for moderate to severely high triglyceride levels, according to the AHA/ACC guideline. These prescription drugs help prevent cholesterol from forming in the liver, lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise HDL cholesterol, notes the AHA.
Omega-3 fatty acids These essential nutrients are found in fish, flaxseed, and other foods and in fish oil supplements, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements . The three main omega-3 fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid , which is mainly found in plant oils, such as flaxseed and canola, and eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid , which are found in fish and other seafood.
According to the ODS, many studies have shown that eating fish and seafood rich in omega-3s may help you keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. And boosting your EPA and DHA intake through foods and supplements can help lower your triglycerides.
How Your Healthcare Provider Can Help
Your healthcare provider can help you get your triglyceride levels under control by ruling out possible causes like medications, thyroid issues, unmanaged diabetes and liver or kidney disease. They can then formulate an effective management plan with you. This might include medication and lifestyle changes like losing weight and eating smaller portions.
As mentioned before, a healthy, fiber-rich diet can help in the matter. Exercising regularly can also play a huge part in managing triglyceride levels. By cleaning up your existing routine, you could see changes in your triglyceride levels within a few months.
This article was adapted from Cleveland Clinic Heart Advisor.
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