Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood — they’re essential for energy. But if your levels become too high, it can increase your risk of heart disease. The good news is following a healthy lifestyle can help lower your levels. Keep reading to find out about the causes and risks of high triglycerides.
What are the risks of high triglycerides?
Some triglycerides are important for your health, but if your levels are too high (hypertriglyceridemia) it can increase your risk of heart disease. This is because high levels are linked to the hardening or thickening of your arteries — atherosclerosis. And this increases your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Very high triglyceride levels can also cause your pancreas to become inflamed (pancreatitis). This is a serious condition that causes extreme pain, frequently leading to hospitalisation. And in some cases, you might be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU).
Studies show taking 2-4g of omega-3 daily can help reduce triglyceride levels by 15-30%. You can check to see if you're getting enough omega-3 nutrients by using a omega-3 and 6 blood test. If you're deficient or need to improve your levels, you might consider taking our premium omega-3 supplements. But you should always speak to your GP before starting a new supplement.
What causes high triglyceride levels?
If you’ve eaten within the last few hours and check your triglycerides, you might have high levels. This is why it’s important to fast for at least 8 hours before a blood test.
If your triglycerides are high after fasting, it could be caused by several things.
Diet and lifestyle
Your body absorbs triglycerides from alcohol and certain foods — like meat, dairy, and oils. But your body can also make triglycerides from excess calories. Generally, the recommended daily calorie intake is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 for men.
Many medical conditions might lead to high triglyceride levels, including:
- non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- uncontrolled diabetes
- an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
- kidney disease
Some genetic conditions might also lead to high triglyceride levels, including:
- familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCH) — you have high cholesterol and triglycerides
- familial hypertriglyceridemia
Sometimes, medications might increase your triglyceride levels. These include:
- diuretics — used to increase urine production
- retinoids — used to treat inflammatory skin disorders, skin cancer, and skin ageing
- steroids — anti-inflammatory medicines used to treat a range of conditions
- contraceptive or hormone replacement pills containing oestrogen and progesterone
- antiretrovirals — medication used to manage HIV
How to check your triglyceride levels
You can measure your triglyceride levels at home with a cholesterol blood test. Ideally, your triglycerides should be below 1.7 mmol/L. Your triglyceride levels are usually measured along with LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol.
How to lower your triglyceride levels
Healthy lifestyle choices are the most effective way to lower your triglyceride levels:
- avoid eating too many sugary and refined foods — opt for whole-grain carbohydrates instead
- choose unsaturated fats — opt for things like olive oil and fatty fish instead of saturated and trans fats
- avoid drinking too much alcohol — aim for no more than 14 units (about 6 pints of beer or 9 glasses of wine) a week and try to have several alcohol-free days a week
- exercise regularly — aim for at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity (like running) or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week (like fast walking, cycling, or swimming)
In addition to lifestyle changes, your doctor might recommend taking medication to lower your triglyceride levels. This could include statins, fibrates, or vitamin B3 (ezetimibe).