How Triglycerides Impact Heart Health?

Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid that circulates in our blood. Our body requires a certain amount of calories and so when we eat calories, our body converts all of them which are not needed immediately into triglycerides. These triglycerides are stored in our fat cells and later, hormones release them for energy as and when required between meals. Triglycerides are important for our body, but if they go beyond the normal level, they can raise the risk of heart disease.


If we habitually eat more calories than we burn, predominantly from food containing high carbohydrates, we may develop high triglycerides which in medical terms is known as hypertriglyceridemia. High triglycerides are frequently a sign of other conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Hypertriglyceridemia may not be directly responsible for any heart disease but can hamper heart health and amplify the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If the triglycerides are above 200 mg/dL, a person is more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than someone with a normal level. Also, having more triglycerides in the blood can lead to developing atherosclerosis which over time and without proper medical treatment can cause a heart attack, stroke or peripheral arterial disease (PAD). Also, if the triglycerides are high, one may be at high risk of pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas and liver disease.

Triglyceride Levels

We should try to keep triglycerides below 150 mg/dL to reduce the risk of heart disease. The levels of triglycerides can be tested in a fasting state in a lipid panel or lipid profile test which also tests total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The table below illustrates the triglyceride levels for adults and children where all values are in milligrams of triglycerides per decilitre of blood (mg/dL)



Children aged 10-19

Children under 10


Less than 150

Less than 90

Less than 75

Borderline high






Above 130

Above 100

Very high

500 or higher



Causes of High Triglycerides

Triglyceride levels could be high due to many factors such as consuming excessive alcohol, obesity, having a family history of high cholesterol, medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, menopause, smoking and thyroid disease. These levels could also be high due to certain medications like beta-blockers, corticosteroids, diuretics and hormones.

Being physically inactive and consuming foods which are high in fat and sugar may also cause triglyceride levels to rise. High triglyceride levels typically do not cause any symptoms and are spotted when a doctor asks for a blood test including a lipid profile. If these high levels are not treated or controlled in time, we might be at a high risk of developing serious heart-related complications.

How to Lower High Triglyceride Levels?

Dietary and lifestyle changes may help in lowering the triglycerides within a few months. However, some people may also require taking proper medications along with adopting lifestyle changes to lower triglyceride levels. We must consult our healthcare provider who will review our medical history. The healthcare provider may also ask questions about our current lifestyle and then accordingly suggest proper medication and alterations in our lifestyle to control the triglyceride level.

Lifestyle Changes

If a person is diagnosed with high triglycerides, the doctor may recommend adopting certain lifestyle changes to develop and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. This may be inclusive of choosing heart-healthy foods by minimising sugar intake, limiting alcohol drinking, managing stress, quitting smoking, indulging in regular physical activity and last but not least, getting enough sleep.

Regular exercise can lower triglycerides and hence, we must aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week. Climbing the stairs instead of taking an elevator wherever possible, taking a walk during break and replacing a motorcycle or car with a bicycle can boost physical activities and thereby lower triglycerides.

Dietary Changes

Four main dietary culprits raise triglycerides and they are alcohol, fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar. Thus, it has a predominantly powerful effect on triglycerides. Limiting alcohol intake can lower triglyceride levels.

Moreover, we can trade saturated fat for fat found in plants by using olive and canola oils. People can also opt for fish such as mackerel or salmon which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, instead of red meat to cut down on their calorie intake and thereby reduce triglycerides.

Furthermore, we should not skip any meals in our busy daily routine and get rid of the habit of late-night snacking. Choosing fresh fruits instead of frozen fruits helps in limiting the sugar intake. Limiting the intake of starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, yam and peas can be beneficial. One must also switch over from refined grains to whole wheat, oats or barley to curb unnecessary carbohydrate intake.

Choosing low-fat or non-fat milk and cheese and light yoghurt instead of regular yoghurt can help in minimising the consumption of sugars and result in lowering the triglycerides.


Sometimes dietary and lifestyle changes aren't enough to control high triglycerides and in such cases, the doctor might recommend certain medicines. Statins are cholesterol-lowering medications which may be recommended if the cholesterol levels are low or a person has a history of blocked arteries or diabetes. Fibrate medications, such as fenofibrate and gemfibrozil can lower triglyceride levels. However, doctors may not prescribe fibrates if a person has severe kidney or liver disease.

Supplements containing omega-3 fatty acid which is commonly known as fish oil can reduce triglycerides. But, fish oil if taken in excess can interfere with blood clotting and hence, it is extremely important to take these supplements only after taking the doctor's advice. Another medication which can lower triglycerides is niacin also known as nicotinic acid. This medicine should also be taken after the doctor's suggestion as it may cause certain side effects when taken with other medicines.


Some people have both high triglycerides and high cholesterol, and this combination may also put anyone at a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases. Triglycerides should be periodically checked with lipid panel (lipid profile) test as they do not show any direct symptoms, but have a deep impact on the heart’s health. Medications can help but lifestyle matters the most. Hence, adopting dietary and lifestyle changes along with proper medications can certainly lower triglyceride levels.

Updated on: 02-Jan-2023


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