Triglycerides (tri-GLIS-er-idz) are common fats found in foods and your body. They are important to good health. As with cholesterol, the triglycerides found in your blood are manufactured by your liver when you eat more calories than your body needs. These excess calories (especially those from carbohydrates and fats) are converted into triglycerides, transported to fat cells for storage, and released between meals to be used as energy by muscles and other body parts.
There are many factors that can cause a high triglycerides level. They include an excessive level of calories, sweets, alcohol and fats in your diet, uncontrolled diabetes, obesity, and little activity or exercise, hypothyroidism and kidney disease.
An excess of triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) has been identified as a risk factor for heart disease in some people. This seems especially true when there is also a family history of heart disease, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and abnormal glucose metabolism, as found in diabetes. When assessing the risk for heart disease, it is important to evaluate triglyceride levels in relation to HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.
Triglyceride levels are normally tested following nine to twelve hours of fasting. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute classifies triglyceride levels as follows:
Normal: Less that 150
Borderline-High: 150 to 199
High: 200 to 499
Very High: 500 and up
If testing reveals elevated triglyceride levels, there is much you can do to help lower them:
- Cut down on calories and reach a healthier weight.
- Reduce intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
- Increase mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and liquid margarine.
- Keep total fat intake to less than 30-percent of calories consumed.
- Increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating more fish (albacore tuna is a good source).
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and sweets.
- Be physically active for a total of 30 minutes each day.