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Understanding Triglycerides Levels: What Your Doctor Hasn't Told You

Updated on April 7, 2011

High Triglycerides

Reprinted from
Reprinted from

What are Triglycerides?

Approximately one-third of the population have high triglyceride levels. Found in the blood stream, triglycerides are fats derived from the carbohydrates and fats we eat. When you eat, unused calories are converted into triglycerides and stored in the fat cells. Accounting for 99% of the fats in our body, when our body needs energy, triglycerides are converted into a usuable form of energy.

Other than telling you to reduce the fats in your diets, most doctors don't tell you what exactly triglycerides are or how to lower them. High triglyceride levels coincide with low levels of HDL cholesterol, the good cholesterol. Like blood sugar levels, triglyceride levels can rise and fall throughout the day. They usually elevated after a meal or during times of fasting. Consequently, that is why a cholesterol test is a fasting test. In addition to an increase for heart disease, high triglyceride levels can be associated with memory loss, skin lesions, abdominal pain, and pancreatis.

Triglyceride Levels

High triglycerides can be a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, neuropathy, and other conditions. Try to keep your triglyceride levels at under 150. The following classifications will help you understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable triglyceride levels.

  • Normal < 150
  • Borderline = 150 - 199
  • High = 200 - 249
  • Very high = to or > 500


Causes of High Triglycerides Levels

High triglycerides can be caused by several different factors or a combination of factors. They include:

  • Obesity especially around the abdomen.
  • An underactive thyroid
  • Consuming too many calories - In addition to consuming too many calories, it also makes a difference what type of food you eat. Recently, researchers at Princeton University have discovered long-term consumption of high fructose corn syrup have led to abnormal increases in body fat, increases in abdominal fat, and a rise in triglycerides. Furthermore, consumption of high fructose corn syrup sweetened drinks with meals are causing a rise in triglyceride levels after meals compared to drinking glucose-sweetened beverages with meals according to research at the Monell Center.
  • Uncontrolled diabetes - High triglyceride levels can be an indicator of diabetes. Consequently, if you haven't been diagnosed with diabetes yet, you might want to consider getting a test for diabetes. Furthermore, in a study done by the University of Michigan, researchers found that diabetics with peripheral neuopathy were at risk for an increased progression of the disease when triglyceride levels are elevated.
  • Kidney disease - Kidney disease is a big factor in the risk of developing atherosclerosis and heart disease. According to, people with chronic kidney disease are at an equal risk of a cardiovascular event when compared to those who have already had a heat attack.
  • Too much alcohol - Alcohol not only adds excess calories to the diet, but it prevents the burning of fat. According to a Swiss study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, alcohol in the bloodstream can slow the metabolism by thirty percent or more. When alcohol is present in the bloodstream, the liver concentrates on removing the alcohol from the bloodstream rather than metabolic processes. Furthermore, the alcohol reduces the enzymes that break down triglycerides.
  • Certain medications - Some of these medications include: birth control pills, estrogen,prednisone, beta blockers, dieuretics, and tamoxifen. Both beta blockers and dieuretics are used to treat high blood pressure. Isn't it interesting that some o the same medications used to treat high blood pressure can cause an increase in triglycerides and the risk for heart problems.
  • Metabolic Syndrome

How to Lower High Triglycerides Levels

Just as there are several factors that can rise triglycerides, by controlling these factors you can lower triglycerides levels. To lower triglycerides levels, you can:

  • Lose weight
  • Exercise
  • Control blood sugar levels if you're a diabetic
  • Stop smoking
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Drink in moderation - Limit alcoholic beverages to one per day.
  • Drink green tea
  • Restrict fats
  • Avoid beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Avoid sugar-laden foods and products with white flour.
  • Eat more fiber
  • Eat more foods with Omega-3 fatty acids. Considered an essential fatty acid, our bodies cannot produce them on our own. Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats found in certain plants and fish.
  • Supplementing the diet with walnuts has show to to result in a signiicant reduction of total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • Taking the supplement, lipoic acid, reduced triglyceride levels in lab animals significantly.

In conjunction with lifestyle changes, high triglyceride levels can be treated with statins. Other cholesterol-lowering medication like Lipitor or Zocor have only minimal effects on triglyceride levels.

Nutritional Supplements for High Triglyceride Levels

In addition to lifestyle changes and prescribed medications, certain nutritional supplements can help lower high triglyceride levels.

  • Fish oil
  • L-carnitine
  • Chromium
  • Garlic
  • Pantethine
  • Niacin
  • Guggul
  • Psyllium seeds
  • Wild yam
  • Red yeast rice extract
  • Reishi
  • Maitake
  • Fenugreek


Now that you know the consequences of high triglycerides and how you can lower them, you can start working on reducing them. By making positive lifestyle changes, hopefully you will be able to lower your triglyceride levels and avoid their adverse effect on your health.

If you're interested in trying any of the recommended supplements, rather than shopping here, there, and everywhere to find all the supplements, Amazon carries them all. For your convenience and easy ordering, they are listed below.

Understanding Triglycerides


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    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      That's wonderful, Cari!!! To raise good cholesterol, in addition to exercise like your doctor said, cut out transfatty acids, reduce/elimate alcohol, increase monosaturated fats, add more fiber, add more soluble fiber,drink more cranberry juice, and stop smoking if you do.

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 

      9 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      What good timing - I just got the results from some lab work I had done and I am happy to see my triglycerides level is 81! However, my good cholesterol is only 35 - my doctor recommended exercise to get that up - any other suggestions?

    • seamist profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Northern Minnesota


      What an interesting pen name! I am curious how you came up with that? I am glad you found the hub helpful. I don't know why most doctors don't take the time to discuss all the ramifications of high triglycerides. I remember a few years back, I had a triglycride level of 450+, and my doctor didn't even explain what he thought the cause of it was. Now I know it was because of my diabetes more than likely. Anyway, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Take care

    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 

      9 years ago from Washington MI

      Some interesting things to know. I am making some changes. Your hub is very helpful. My doctor told me my triglycerides were high(335), but he didn't offer any solutions to bring the numbers down. I exercise, am about 10 pounds over, and eat fairly wel. So I will make a few dietary changes. Thanks for the great hub!


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