Triglyceride Levels Explained

High triglycerides, especially when combined with high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (also known as “bad” cholesterol), can put you at risk for heart disease.

This article explains what triglycerides are, what are normal levels, and how to prevent the problem.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid that makes up most of the fat in the diet. Triglycerides are important because they provide the body with the energy it needs to function every day. If there are too many triglycerides, they are usually stored as fat.

Triglycerides are either made in the liver or consumed in the diet and then absorbed into the body through the small intestine. But triglycerides never reach their destination in the body alone.They attach to proteins and become lipoproteins called lipoproteins chylomicrons, or very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).

These lipoproteins are not very dense, nor are they very heavy. Therefore, along with LDL, they may contribute to the risk of heart disease. (In contrast, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is called the “good” cholesterol. It is so named because high HDL levels reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.)

How triglycerides work in your body

What should my triglyceride level be?

Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for heart disease. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

  • Triglyceride levels should be less than 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L).
  • Levels between 150 mg/dL (1.69 mmol/L) and 199 mg/dL (2.25 mmol/L) are considered borderline high.
  • Levels between 200-499 mg/dL (2.26-5.63 mmol/L) are considered high.
  • Levels above 500 mg/dL (5.64 mmol/L) are considered extremely high.

Cholesterol and Triglycerides: What You Need to Know

risk factor

High triglyceride levels have primary and secondary causes, also known as hypertriglyceridemia. The main causes include various genetic disorders affecting triglyceride and/or cholesterol metabolism. Secondary causes are usually due to excess dietary fat or underlying conditions, including:

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  • diabetes
  • excessive drinking
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)
  • Nephrotic syndrome (clinical findings in patients with kidney disease)
  • obesity

If any of these risk factors are present, your healthcare provider may recommend that you get your blood lipids checked more frequently (every 1 or 2 years instead of every 5 years). The lipid panel is a test that measures different types of fat in the blood. It is also called a cholesterol test.

10 Reasons for High Triglycerides in Diabetes

Health effects of high triglycerides

High triglycerides may put you at increased risk of coronary heart disease, especially if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or smoke. According to Harvard Health: “Research now shows that high triglycerides are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, regardless of HDL.”

Elevated triglyceride levels are also strongly associated with many diseases that significantly increase cardiovascular risk, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, elevated low-density lipoprotein levels, and obesity. This means that most people with high triglycerides also have a higher risk of developing these diseases, and active steps should be taken to reduce this risk.

Also, very high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, which can be a dangerous condition.


This has become more apparent as more research shows that high triglycerides are an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Elevated triglyceride levels are also strongly associated with various diseases that significantly increase cardiovascular risk.

metabolic syndrome latent

High triglyceride levels may also lead to metabolic syndrome. This is not one, but a group of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Some people have only one risk factor from the list of five. However, you have metabolic syndrome when at least three risk factors apply to you:

  • high triglyceride levels
  • Excessive waist circumference, called abdominal obesity
  • low HDL levels
  • hypertension
  • High fasting blood sugar, often a warning sign of diabetes

Factors That May Cause High Triglycerides


While the jury is still out on whether high triglyceride levels cause heart disease, it’s still important to bring them back into the normal range.

High triglyceride levels are initially treated with a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet and lifestyle changes. If this doesn’t work, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help lower your triglyceride levels. In the meantime, the American Heart Association recommends the following steps to keep triglyceride levels low:

  • Weight Loss: Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight can reduce triglyceride levels by 20 percent.
  • Eat right: Limit salt, sugar, and full-fat dairy, and eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich grains, lean meats and poultry, as well as beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Embrace Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring can lower triglyceride levels. The same goes for flax, chia seeds, and walnuts.
  • Alcohol withdrawal: People with high triglyceride levels can exacerbate problems by drinking alcohol.
  • Exercise more: The effect of physical activity on triglyceride levels depends on your exercise intensity, duration of exercise, and daily caloric intake. But any extra activity (beyond what you’re doing now) can help lower your triglyceride levels.

foods that cause high triglycerides


Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid that makes up most of the fat in the diet. Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for heart disease. Additionally, there are primary and secondary causes of high triglyceride levels, primarily other health conditions. There’s no question that high triglyceride levels can lead to heart disease, but you’re better off playing it safe and keeping your levels within the normal range. Medication is an option, but the American Heart Association offers a healthy diet and lifestyle that you might want to try first.

VigorTip words

Not long ago, you couldn’t address cardiovascular risk and heart disease without mentioning LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Now that triglycerides are in the mix, many doctors say it’s time. Until research fully confirms the importance of triglycerides, follow this practical advice from Harvard Medical School: “Recent evidence suggests that if your triglyceride levels are higher than normal, especially if you have heart disease or other risk factors ( such as diabetes), you should work towards lowering your triglyceride levels. , high blood pressure or smoking.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a normal triglyceride level?

    Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL. Triglycerides are a type of dietary fat used to provide energy to the body. Excess triglycerides are stored as body fat. High levels of triglycerides in the blood are a risk factor for heart disease.

  • What are amazing triglyceride levels?

    Triglyceride levels above 500 mg/dL are very high. Elevated triglyceride levels are independent risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

  • Which foods raise triglyceride levels?

    Alcohol, refined grains, saturated fats, starchy foods, sugars, and trans fats are the main food components that raise triglyceride levels. Some foods and drinks that can cause elevated triglycerides include:

    • baked goods
    • beer
    • Bread and Bagels
    • butter
    • candy
    • corn syrup
    • yolk
    • fast food
    • full-fat dairy
    • ice cream
    • instant rice
    • juice
    • lard
    • liquor
    • low fiber cereals
    • red meat
    • soda
    • shorten
    • sugar
    • whiskey
    • wine