High Blood Triglycerides High Blood Triglycerides
Your body needs some triglycerides for good health. However, high levels of triglycerides in your blood can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Triglycerides are a type of fat, called , that circulate in your blood. They are the most common type of fat in your body. Triglycerides come from foods, especially butter, oils, and other fats you eat. Triglycerides also come from extra calories your body does not need right away. Unused calories are stored as triglycerides in fat cells. When your body needs energy, it releases the triglycerides. Some triglycerides are important for good health. However, high triglyceride levels in your blood can raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
High blood triglycerides are a type of lipid disorder. This condition can develop on its own, with other lipid disorders like high blood cholesterol or low , or as part of metabolic syndrome. High blood triglyceride levels are very common. Up to one in four adults are affected. Some health conditions and medicines, genes, and lifestyle habits can raise your risk for high blood triglycerides. Heart-healthy lifestyle changes may lower triglycerides in your blood.
Triglycerides are different from cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all the cells of the body. Levels of triglycerides and blood cholesterol are checked using blood tests.
What are healthy blood triglyceride levels?
Triglyceride levels usually fall into the following categories:
- Healthy: Below 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for adults; lower than 90 mg/dL for children and teens (ages 10-19)
- Borderline high: Between 150 and 199 mg/dL
- High: Between 200 and 499 mg/dL
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with high blood triglycerides if your fasting blood triglyceride levels are regularly 150 milligrams mg/dL or higher.
- Very high: Above 500 mg/dL
What are the symptoms of high blood triglycerides?
High blood triglycerides usually do not cause any symptoms. However, if your high blood triglyceride levels aren’t treated or controlled, it can increase your risk of serious complications like coronary heart disease and stroke.
- Borderline high and high blood triglycerides, levels measured without fasting and that stay higher than 175 mg/dL for a long time, can raise the risk for heart complications.
- Very high blood triglycerides, more than 500 mg/dL, can raise the risk for a sudden swelling in the pancreas called acute pancreatitis. Very high levels can also lead to changes in the eye’s blood vessels that make the vessels look different than usual. This condition is called lipemia retinalis. Finally, people with very high levels of blood triglycerides may also have damaged skin on their back, chest, arms, and legs.
- Extremely high blood triglyceride levels, greater than 1,500 mg/dL, may cause the body to stop breaking down fats, which is called multifactorial chylomicronemia syndrome. Symptoms include short-term memory loss, swelling of the liver and spleen, stomach pain, and reddening or flushing of the skin with alcohol use.
What are the causes and risk factors for high blood triglycerides?
Some health conditions may increase blood triglyceride levels. These include:
Blood triglycerides can get higher when you:
- Don’t get enough exercise
- Eat foods that are high in fat and sugar
- Drink too much alcohol
Some medicines can also raise blood triglyceride levels, including those that treat:
- Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
Some people may have a higher risk of high blood triglycerides, for example:
- People who live with HIV
- People who live with an inherited lipid metabolism disorder that prevents the body from breaking down lipids
- People of South Asian ancestry (for example, people from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) who live in the United States
How are high blood triglycerides diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will order blood tests to measure the level of triglycerides in your blood. You may be asked to fast, or not eat, for several hours before your blood is tested.
- A lipoprotein profile should be done every 5 years for healthy adults. That profile includes a triglycerides test. Older adults, people with diabetes, and people with a family history of high cholesterol or other heart disease risk factors may have more frequent tests.
- Apolipoprotein B is another kind of blood test that may be done if your triglyceride levels are borderline high.
Genetic testing may also be needed for people who have:
- A swollen pancreas (pancreatitis) or very high blood triglyceride levels, with no diabetes or obesity
- A close blood relative with very high blood triglycerides or pancreatitis
Your provider will talk with you about your test results and what they mean.
How can you lower blood triglyceride levels?
If you are diagnosed with high blood triglycerides, your healthcare provider may recommend that you make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
- Choose heart-healthy foods.
- Get regular physical activity. Before starting any exercise program, ask your provider what level of physical activity is right for you.
- Aim for a healthy weight.
- Manage stress.
- Quit smoking. Visit Smoking and Your Heart and the NHLBI’s Your Guide to a Healthy Heart. Although these resources focus on heart health, they include basic information about how to quit smoking. For free help and support to quit smoking, you may call the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).
- Get enough good quality sleep.
- Limit alcohol. If your blood triglyceride levels are considered very high, your provider may recommend stopping alcohol use. Visit the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for resources on support and treatment to stop drinking.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe a few different types of medicines to control or lower your triglyceride levels.
- Fibrates lower the number of triglycerides in the blood. These medicines may also be used to lower cholesterol.
- Concentrated omega-3 fatty acids are available by prescription for treating triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or above. These medicines are made differently than omega-3 dietary supplements, which are not FDA-approved to treat people with high triglyceride levels.
- Statins are the most common medicine used to treat high blood cholesterol but can also be used to lower the levels of triglycerides in the blood. Learn more about how you can stay safe while taking statins.
- Ezetimibe, another cholesterol-lowering medicine, can also be used to remove triglycerides from the blood when paired with a healthy diet.
More than one medicine may be necessary to treat very high levels of triglycerides.