Last updated on August 7th, 2023
Triglycerides are essential molecules, a form of fat that our body stores and utilises for energy between meals. Let’s learn more about their function and significance.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are like small energy packets in our blood. They are made up of a glycerol backbone and three fatty acids:
- Or both
When we eat more calories than we need, our body converts the extra calories into triglycerides and stores them in fat cells for later use.
Triglycerides act as a reserve of energy, providing fuel between meals. When our body needs energy, hormones signal the fat cells to release triglycerides, which travel through the blood to provide energy to our muscles and organs.
However, if we consume too many fatty and sugary foods, our triglyceride levels can become too high, which may increase the risk of many medical problems, one of them being diabetes.
Keep reading this article to learn what are triglycerides, problems caused by high triglyceride levels, their normal range, why triglyceride levels increase, and how to reduce them.
What Are The Problems Caused By High Triglycerides?
High triglycerides in blood can lead to various health problems. Some common issues caused by elevated triglycerides include:
High triglycerides can contribute to the development of heart disease, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Extremely high triglycerides may trigger inflammation of the pancreas, causing pancreatitis, a painful condition.
High triglycerides can form fatty deposits in the blood vessels, narrowing them and reducing blood flow.
High triglycerides are often associated with other health issues, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess body fat around the waist, collectively known as metabolic syndrome.
Type 2 Diabetes
High triglyceride levels may contribute to insulin resistance and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Read More: Can Diabetes Patients Eat Oranges?
Triglycerides Normal Range and High Range
A general blood test can show your triglyceride levels. Below are triglycerides normal range by age:
Triglycerides Normal Range For Adults
Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less than 8.33 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
150 to 199 mg/dL (8.32 to 11.05 mmol/L)
200 to 499 mg/dL (11.11 to 27.72 mmol/L)
500 mg/dL or above (27.77 mmol/L or above)
Triglycerides Normal Range For Children (10 to 19 years):
Less than 90 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less than 5 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
90 to 129 mg/dL (5 to 7.17 mmol/L)
130 or above mg/dL (7.2 mmol/L or above)
Triglycerides Normal Range For Children (Below 10 years):
Less than 75 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or less than 4.17 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
75 to 99 mg/dL (4.17 to 5.5 mmol/L)
100 or above mg/dL (5.56 mmol/L or above)
A healthcare provider might ask a person to avoid eating or fasting for about 12 hours before the test. Every person must aim for a non-fasting level of TGs i.e., under 150 mg/dL.
If a physician has requested a person to fast for a test (10-14 hours), the levels must be under 30 mg/dL.
Note: The fasting test results in a low number of triglycerides because it only looks at the triglycerides made by the liver and sent to VLDL cholesterol, not the triglycerides from food. Since the person hasn’t eaten anything, there are no chylomicrons in their blood.
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High triglyceride levels, known as hypertriglyceridemia, can be caused by various factors. Some of the common causes of high triglycerides include:
One of the primary causes of high triglycerides is an unhealthy diet. Consuming a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, and refined carbohydrates can lead to elevated triglyceride levels. Excessive alcohol intake can also contribute to this.
Obesity And Sedentary Lifestyle
Being overweight or obese and leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase triglyceride levels.
Causes of high triglycerides also extend to genetics. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to higher triglyceride levels, which can be related to conditions like familial hypertriglyceridemia.
Certain Medical Conditions
Several medical conditions can be associated with causes of high triglycerides, including diabetes (especially uncontrolled diabetes), thyroid problems, kidney disease, liver disease, high blood pressure and certain rare genetic disorders.
Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, diuretics, steroids, estrogen, and immunosuppressants, may be the reason behind causes of high triglycerides.
Factors like smoking, alcohol consumption and stress may also contribute to causes of high triglycerides.
This condition is characterised by a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels, including high triglycerides.
Pregnancy or Menopause
Triglyceride levels can rise during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester.
During menopause, hormonal changes occur as a woman’s body produces lower estrogen and progesterone levels, contributing to causes of high triglycerides.
Rapidly absorbing carbohydrates and sugary foods are also among causes of high triglycerides. They can cause a surge in triglyceride levels after a meal.
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Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in our blood that provides energy to the body. While they are essential for normal bodily function, high triglyceride levels can pose significant health risks.
What makes managing triglycerides challenging is that they often remain asymptomatic, earning them the nickname “the silent culprit.”
It is crucial to be aware of potential high triglycerides symptoms, as they may be indicative of an underlying health issue. Here are some signs that ‘might’ appear when triglyceride levels are too elavated:
Fat Deposits Under The Skin (Xanthomas)
In some cases of extremely high triglycerides, fat deposits can appear under the skin, often around the eyes, elbows, knees, or hands. These fatty deposits, known as xanthomas, are painless but may be yellowish and slightly raised.
High triglycerides symptoms also inlcudes pancreatitis. One of the most severe complications of very high triglyceride levels is acute pancreatitis. It presents as sudden and severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.
High triglycerides symptoms may also appear as mild to moderate abdominal pain or discomfort. While not specific to triglycerides alone, it can be an indicator of underlying lipid abnormalities.
Persistent fatigue and a general sense of tiredness could be another high triglycerides symptoms. When triglyceride levels are elevated, the body may struggle to properly metabolise fats, leading to decreased energy levels.
Dry, itchy skin or skin conditions such as eczema may be linked to high triglycerides symptoms. The skin relies on proper lipid levels to maintain its protective barrier, and imbalances can lead to skin problems.
Frequent urination is another high triglycerides symptoms. High triglyceride levels might be associated with increased urine production, leading to more frequent trips to the bathroom.
It’s essential to note that these symptoms are non-specific and can be caused by various health conditions. Therefore, if you experience any of these high triglycerides symptoms or suspect high triglycerides, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional. A simple blood test called a lipid profile can accurately measure triglyceride levels, allowing early detection and appropriate management.
How High Triglycerides Impact Diabetes?
Triglycerides can significantly impact blood sugar levels, making them crucial for people with diabetes to monitor. Let’s understand the relationship of triglycerides and diabetes, how they affect each other, and why paying attention to high triglycerides is vital for managing diabetes effectively.
Triglycerides and Insulin Resistance
Let’s talk about insulin resistance – a concept that affects how your body handles sugar. Imagine insulin as the key that unlocks your cells to let sugar inside. In a healthy body, the cells respond well to insulin’s signal, and sugar is easily absorbed. However, when triglycerides are high, they can interfere with this process, making the cells less responsive to insulin. This means triglycerides and diabetes have a direct connection. The sugar in the blood leads to higher blood sugar levels – not something you want when you’re already dealing with diabetes.
Challenges in Diabetes Control
For individuals with diabetes, managing blood sugar is a top priority. But when your triglycerides are elevated, it can get challenging. High triglycerides can cause unpredictable fluctuations in blood sugar levels, making it harder to keep your sugar within the target range and managing both triglycerides and diabetes effectively.
Impact on Heart Health
Heart health is a significant concern for people with diabetes. Unfortunately, high triglycerides can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, which is already higher in individuals with diabetes. Keeping an eye on your triglycerides and diabetes levels is crucial to protect your heart and overall well-being.
The Pancreas Under Strain
Your pancreas, the organ responsible for insulin production, can feel the strain when high triglycerides are high. With time, this strain may affect insulin production, making triglycerides and diabetes management even more challenging.
Blood Vessels Under Attack
High triglycerides can attack your blood vessels, causing damage as they circulate through your bloodstream. This damage can lead to reduced blood flow and complications in various parts of the body, such as the eyes, kidneys, and nerves – not something you want to deal with on top of diabetes.
Tackling the Double Challenge
If you have both diabetes and triglycerides, don’t worry – there are ways to manage both conditions effectively. A healthy lifestyle is key. Focus on a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting saturated fats, trans fats, and sugary treats. Regular exercise can work wonders in controlling both diabetes and triglycerides. Sometimes, medication may be necessary, but there are always some ways to treat the condition naturally.
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Other Problems Linked With High Triglycerides
High triglycerides are an indication of conditions that increase the risk of heart problems. Other than prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, high triglyceride levels might indicate:
- Low thyroid hormone levels (a condition called hypothyroidism)
- Metabolic syndrome- It is a condition when obesity, hypertension, and high blood glucose take place together. It enhances the risk of heart problems.
- Various rare hereditary problems affect how a person’s body converts fat to energy.
At times, High Triglycerides Are An Ill Effect Of Various Drugs Like:
- HIV medications
- Estrogen and progestin
How And When To Take A Triglycerides Test?
Triglyceride normal range is measured through a test called a lipid panel, which evaluates cholesterol (HDL, LDL) and triglycerides together. To ensure accurate results, it’s essential to fast for about 12 hours before the test.
This is because recent eating can affect fat levels in the blood, leading to misleadingly high readings if the test is done right after eating. So, remember to fast before the triglycerides test for reliable results!
How Is the Triglycerides Test Performed?
It’s not complicated – just a regular blood test does it all.
The triglycerides test involves taking a blood sample for analysis in a laboratory. A healthcare provider will clean the site, wrap an elastic band around your arm, and insert a needle into a vein to collect the blood.
Once done, they’ll remove the elastic band and needle and apply pressure with cotton or gauze to stop bleeding.
How Often Is The Triglycerides Test Needed?
The AHA (American Heart Associates) proposes that individuals above 20 must be tested every 4 to 6 years. Depending upon a person’s health, healthcare providers might recommend regular testing.
Also, the AHA suggests checking children once they reach 9-11 years of age. Also, one time when children reach the age group of 17-21 years.
To take a triglycerides test, fast for about 12 hours before the lipid panel. The test involves a simple blood sample taken by a healthcare provider. For adults above 20, the American Heart Association recommends testing every 4 to 6 years, while children should be checked at ages 9-11 and 17-21.
Difference Between Cholesterol and Triglycerides
|Definition||A type of lipid (fat) found in the blood and body cells.||Another type of lipid (fat) found in the blood and body cells.|
|Function||Essential for building cell membranes, producing hormones, and aiding in digestion.||Serve as a form of stored energy for the body.|
|Source||Produced by the liver and obtained from certain foods.||Derived from the breakdown of fats in the diet or synthesised in the liver.|
|Transport||Transported in the bloodstream by lipoproteins (LDL and HDL).||Carried in the bloodstream within lipoproteins and VLDL particles.|
|Health Impact||High LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. High HDL cholesterol is considered beneficial for heart health||High levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and pancreatitis. Low levels are desirable for heart health.|
|Measurement||Measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) in a lipid profile blood test.||Measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) in a lipid profile blood test.|
|Dietary Factors||Influenced by saturated and trans fats in the diet.||Influenced by the consumption of excess calories, especially from sugars and refined carbohydrates.|
|Association with Diet||Affected by dietary intake of cholesterol-rich foods (e.g., eggs, shellfish).||More strongly influenced by the intake of high-carbohydrate and sugary foods.|
|Risk Factors||Family history, poor diet, lack of physical activity, and obesity can impact cholesterol levels.||Similar risk factors to cholesterol, but excessive alcohol consumption can also raise triglyceride levels.|
People often rely on medicines for reducing triglyceride levels, whereas most of them don’t need to. Unlike its name, triglycerides are not that complicated. The answer to ‘how to reduce triglycerides’ doesn’t always has to be medicines. Here are the 3 basic ways how to reduce triglycerides naturally and improve your heart health:
- Consuming a healthy, nutritious diet
- Weight management
- Performing regular aerobic exercises
A Healthy Triglycerides Diet
A high triglyceride diet plays a crucial role in maintaining normal levels. Usually, it is vital only to consume the energy the body would utilise that day and avoid too many calories. It is important to consume the following meals for a healthy high triglyceride diet:
- Whole grains
- Non-tropical veggie oils like olive oil
- Lean, healthy protein sources (nuts, seafood, low-fat dairy products)
Moreover, it is vital to restrict the consumption of:
- Extra sugar
- Sugary drinks
- Sweet and baked goods
- Fatty meats
Avoiding food products like hydrogenated oils or fats is essential if you’re looking for how to reduce triglycerides. It is better to select plant-based fats rather than the fat present in meats. These may include olive oil and canola oil. People must swap red meat with fish containing high omega-3 fatty acids. Examples may include mackerel or salmon. It is good to restrict one’s alcohol intake as alcohol is rich in calories and sugar.
It is essential to skip simple carbs like sugar and foods prepared from white flour, trans fats, or fructose. Also, it is vital to restrict alcohol intake as alcohol is rich in both calories and sugar. It can riskily increase triglyceride levels.
Additional calories get converted into triglycerides and stored in the body as fat. If a person can lower their calories, they can decrease their triglyceride levels. Targeting and maintaining a moderate weight using meal planning and exercise is better.
Other lifestyle modifications to assist the reduction of triglycerides may involve:
- Managing diabetes and hypertension
- Mitigating stress
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Quitting smoking
If a person has high triglyceride levels, even a little weight loss (5-10 pounds) may reduce the levels.
Exercising and Workout
The AHA (American Heart Association) suggests 1.5 hours of moderate-intensity weekly aerobic exercise. This is approximately half an hour of exercise 5 days each week, or 75 minutes of intense aerobic exercise each week.
Exercise is a vital aspect of health for every person. It aids in maintaining a healthy weight. In addition, exercise may help in keeping triglyceride levels low. Exercise supports burning calories, which might cause a person’s body to utilise additional triglycerides for energy.
For optimal heart health, moderate-intensity exercises or any low-impact aerobic exercises are excellent ways to give a good start.
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Medicinal Treatment For High Triglycerides
Healthcare providers may suggest prescription drugs for to hypertriglyceridemia treatments. A few of these medicines may involve:
- Cholesterol absorption blockers
- Statins, including rosuvastatin and atorvastatin
- Fibrates, including gemfibrozil and fenofibrate
- PCSK9 inhibitors
- Nicotinic acid
Triglycerides Medicines and Supplements
Physicians might recommend supplements or medicines if your triglyceride levels cannot be reduced despite a healthy diet and regular exercise.
- These triglycerides medicines help lower overall triglyceride levels by decreasing the liver’s production of VDL lipoproteins (prepared from mostly TGs). They involve gemfibrozil and fenofibrate. Fibrates enhance the risk of ill effects if consumed with a statin.
- High triglyceride treatment also include fish oil. In huge amounts, omega-3 fatty acids might aid in reducing the TGs. The most commonly used supplement is fish oil.
- These are HMG CoA reductase blockers. These medicines prevent the production of cholesterol in the liver. They can effectively reduce LDL cholesterol levels. Also, they help achieve normal triglyceride levels and increase HDL cholesterol, as per the USFDA.
- Also referred to as nicotinic acid, is suitable for high triglyceride treatment. It is a B vitamin that might elevate the levels of HDL cholesterol. It also helps reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and TGs levels.
A physician might recommend niacin if a person’s triglyceride levels exceed 500 mg/dL. Niacin is known to interact with other medicines and lead to side effects. Thus, it is better not to consume OTC niacin without consulting a doctor.
Supplements or triglycerides medicines that reduce might interact with other medicines an individual is consuming. Hence, like other medicines, people must only consume supplements under a doctor’s guidance.
Hypertriglyceridemia treatments may include triglycerides medicines like cholesterol absorption blockers, statins, fibrates, PCSK9 inhibitors, and nicotinic acid. Physicians might suggest fibrates, fish oil, statins, or niacin supplements for stubborn cases, but caution is needed to avoid interactions with other medications. Always seek a doctor’s guidance when using supplements or medicines for triglyceride reduction.
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What Are Serum Triglycerides?
Don’t get confused! Triglycerides and Serum Triglycerides are the same things. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) that circulate in the bloodstream, and they are commonly referred to as serum triglycerides because they are measured in the serum (liquid portion).
When you get a blood test to check your triglyceride levels, the test measures the amount of triglycerides in the serum. It is a standard procedure to assess a person’s lipid profile and cardiovascular health.
As mentioned earlier, having some triglycerides in the bloodstream is normal and necessary for energy storage, but elevated levels can be a risk factor for various health conditions, particularly cardiovascular diseases.
Monitoring and managing serum triglycerides levels are essential for maintaining overall health and reducing the risk of related complications.
Are Low Triglycerides A Cause For Concern?
Low triglycerides are generally not a cause for concern on their own and are generally considered a positive health indicator. Low triglycerides are often associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.
However, it’s important to note that very low triglycerides may reflect an underlying health issue or a result of certain lifestyle factors, which may require further investigation.
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Some Potential Reasons For Low Triglycerides
Maintaining a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and not smoking can lead to low triglycerides.
Losing weight, especially if an individual was previously overweight or obese, can lead to low triglycerides.
Some medications, such as statins used to lower cholesterol levels, may also lower triglyceride levels as a side effect.
Underlying health conditions
Low triglycerides may sometimes be associated with certain medical conditions, such as malnutrition, hyperthyroidism, or chronic liver disease. If this is the case, it’s essential to address and manage the underlying condition.
In rare cases, individuals may have genetic conditions that lead to naturally low triglycerides.
While low triglycerides are generally considered beneficial.
Extremely Low Levels (Hypotriglyceridemia) May Have Some Potential Concerns:
Fat-soluble Vitamin Absorption
Triglycerides are required for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Very low triglycerides may lead to reduced absorption of these vitamins, potentially leading to deficiencies.
Triglycerides play a role in hormone synthesis, and extremely low triglycerides may affect hormone balance.
It’s important to remember that interpreting triglyceride levels should be done regarding an individual’s overall health and medical history. If you have concerns about your triglyceride levels, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional who can assess your specific situation and provide appropriate guidance and treatment if necessary.
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When Is It Good to See a Doctor?
High triglycerides generally fail to give rise to any signs. The signs classically arise when a healthcare provider requests a blood test involving a lipid panel. If a person does not have high-risk factors like medical problems or lifestyle factors, a physician would ask for a lipid panel regularly (over years). This keeps a regular check on the triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
If the lipid panel outcomes exceed normal triglyceride levels, physicians might recommend certain lifestyle changes, i.e., diet and exercise. If diet and exercise fail to achieve the desired outcomes, the doctor might suggest medicines like statins or fibrates.
Triglyceride levels are crucial for a person’s overall health and cardiac health. Keeping these levels within a standard limit might aid in lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems. Physicians might suggest medicines for individuals in a few high-risk cases. Yet, most individuals might restore their triglycerides normal range by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
Is High Triglycerides Treatable?
Yes, high triglycerides are treatable. Lifestyle changes play a crucial role, including adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and reducing alcohol and sugary beverage consumption. If lifestyle modifications are insufficient, medications such as statins, fibrates, or omega-3 fatty acid supplements may be prescribed for high triglyceride treatment.
What Is The Danger Level Of Triglycerides?
The danger level of triglycerides is when they reach very high levels, typically above 500 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). Extremely high triglycerides increase the risk of pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition. If triglycerides are out of the normal triglyceride levels, it may contribute to cardiovascular disease, especially when combined with other risk factors like low HDL cholesterol and high LDL cholesterol.
Do Triglyceride Levels Modify Every Day?
Triglycerides modify intensely in response to diet. Eating food increases the levels 5 to 10 times higher than the fasting state. Even fasting levels may differ significantly daily. Hence, modest modifications in fasting TGs assessed on different days are not abnormal.
What Foods Cause High Triglycerides?
Foods high in saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and refined carbohydrates can elevate serum triglycerides. Examples include fatty meats, full-fat dairy, processed foods, sugary beverages, baked goods, and high-fructose corn syrup. Opting for a balanced diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help manage triglyceride levels.
Do The Levels Of Triglycerides Change If Not Fasting?
Yes, triglyceride levels can change depending on whether a person is fasting or not. When you eat a meal, your body absorbs fats from the food, and serum triglycerides levels temporarily increase. This is known as the postprandial state. However, when you fast for several hours, such as before a lipid profile blood test, triglyceride levels decrease as the body utilizes triglycerides for energy.
It’s important to note that the fasting state is usually required for accurate measurement of triglyceride levels during a lipid profile test. Non-fasting triglyceride levels might not provide a complete picture of a person’s lipid profile. Hence, healthcare professionals often recommend fasting for 9-12 hours before the test to obtain more reliable results.
Can Stress Result In High Triglycerides?
High cortisol levels from chronic stress may enhance TGs, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure. All of them are common risk factors for cardiovascular problems. Stress may also result in modifications supporting the accumulation of plaque deposits in the arteries.
Do High Triglycerides Have An Impact On Kidneys?
Yes, high triglyceride levels can impact kidney health. High triglycerides are associated with an increased risk of kidney disease and may contribute to the progression of existing kidney conditions. Managing triglyceride levels through a healthy diet and lifestyle can help protect kidney function.
The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.