What You Need to Know About Triglycerides

Let’s talk about triglycerides and the impact they have on your health. Sometimes triglycerides are confused with cholesterol. They are different substances that play different roles in the body. 

Triglycerides are lipids (waxy fats) found in your blood that give your body energy. Your body makes triglycerides and gets Triglycerides from the foods you eat. Your body converts any calories it doesn’t need to use right away into triglycerides. Instead, they will be stored in fat cells and used when required for energy between meals. If your levels of triglycerides are too high, it may increase your risk of heart disease and pancreatitis.1

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in every cell in your body. Your body needs it to function. Cholesterol helps your body build cells, such as brain cells. It also makes hormones, vitamin D, and bile to help break down the foods you eat. Your liver can produce all the cholesterol your body needs. Without cholesterol, your body could not function properly. For example, your body would no longer make CoQ10 without cholesterol, leading to neurological problems. If you get too much cholesterol from the foods you eat, such as meat, eggs, butter, and cheese, which are high in fat, you may develop “high cholesterol.” HDL absorbs cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, while LDL can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.2

 Triglycerides and cholesterol are produced differently. While the body can make all the cholesterol it needs to function, this isn’t the case with triglycerides, which come from food or excess calories.

High triglycerides combined with high cholesterol raise your risk of heart attack, strokes, and pancreatitis. Diet and lifestyle changes can keep triglyceride levels in a healthy range. Medications may also be necessary; it is best to speak with your healthcare provider to proceed.3

What Constitutes A High Triglyceride Level?

People rarely have symptoms when their triglyceride levels are high. However, it can be dangerous to your health, so getting routine lipid blood tests is essential. Your health care provider will look at the combination of triglycerides along with HDL and LDL numbers. If your triglycerides and LDL cholesterol are high, but your HDL is low, you have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.4

It would help if you fasted 8 to 12 hours before a lipid blood test for the most accurate reading. A healthy number for triglycerides is below 150 milligrams per deciliter. 

Your healthcare provider classifies high triglyceride levels as:

  • Mild: 150-199 mg/dL.
  • Moderate: 200-499 mg/dL.
  • Severe: Greater than 500 mg/dL.

Low triglyceride levels could also be an indication of an underlying condition, such as malnutrition or malabsorption, but these conditions are typically identified and diagnosed by other symptoms.4

How To Maintain Healthy Triglyceride Levels

  • Limit alcohol
  • Be aware of a family history of high cholesterol.
  • Be aware that some medications may affect triglyceride levels, such as diuretics, hormones, corticosteroids, and beta-blockers.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  •  Don’t smoke 
  • Avoid foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.
  • Be physically active
  • Have good sleep hygiene
  • Manage stress
  • Control high blood pressure and diabetes5

How often should you get triglyceride tests?

High triglyceride levels become more of a problem with age. As the risk rises, your healthcare provider might recommend tests more often. Younger adults may need cholesterol tests every four to six years. However, if you have diabetes, a family history of high cholesterol, or other heart disease risk factors, you may need more frequent tests. Children also need cholesterol and triglyceride tests. Your child usually gets tested between 9 and 11 and again during young adulthood.6

What are the complications of high triglycerides?

High levels of triglycerides may increase your risk of pancreatitis. This severe and painful inflammation of the pancreas can be life-threatening. It also increases your chances of coronary heart disease, stroke, and metabolic syndrome, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.7

How are high triglycerides treated?

People at high risk for heart attacks, strokes, or other problems may need medications to lower triglycerides. These may include cholesterol-lowering drugs such as statins. Different approaches may also be of benefit that is a more holistic approach. Sugar drives the good cholesterol down, increases dangerous cholesterol particles, and causes pre-diabetes and diabetes. So, it is essential to eliminate sugar as much as possible and incorporate foods like Eat more quality fats like nuts, avocados, seeds, and coconut butter. It is also essential to eat good quality protein with every meal. These foods are beneficial in balancing your cholesterol levels. Specific supplementation may also be of benefit. Take a good multivitamin and mineral and a purified fish oil supplement that contains 1000 to 2000 grams a day of EPA/DHA. Plant sterols also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels cholesterol. 8

 

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/art-20048186
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/9152
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/triglycerides#low-triglyceride-levels
  4. https://drhyman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The-Cholesterol-Solution_ebook_022318.pdf?v=1.1
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-ways-to-lower-triglycerides#tips
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17583-triglycerides–heart-health
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459368/
  8. https://drhyman.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/The-Cholesterol-Solution_ebook_022318.pdf?v=1.1

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