Surprising Causes of High Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat or lipid in our bloodstream. All the calories which we consume are not utilized immediately. Our body stores them in the form of triglycerides and uses them whenever required. If the triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL (milligram per decilitre of blood), it is considered normal. However, if the levels go beyond 200 mg/dL, it's considered high triglycerides or hypertriglyceridemia.

High triglycerides do not show any specific symptoms and hence, can be determined only when the doctor asks someone to conduct a lipid panel or lipid profile test. Nevertheless, high triglycerides can raise the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis and pancreatitis.

If someone has been diagnosed with high triglycerides or hypertriglyceridemia, one has to consult a doctor and re-evaluate their diet and lifestyle. A healthy diet plan, increased physical activity and proper medication are indeed essential components in lowering triglyceride levels. But, some surprising causes can contribute to increased triglyceride levels.

Causes of High Triglycerides

While the food we consume can have a major impact on our triglyceride levels, lesser-known factors, like how much we sleep, how much alcohol we drink and even our stress level, can also affect the triglyceride levels. Doctors can normalize the levels, provided they understand the exact cause of increased triglyceride levels. Here are some surprising causes for high triglycerides and how to overcome them.

Genetic Defects and Environmental Factors

Sometimes a mutation in one or more genes affects certain pathways in our body that ultimately increases the triglycerides levels. In some people, high triglycerides may be a result of a combination of genetic defects and environmental factors.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, abnormally high triglycerides can also be inherited similarly to high cholesterol. This condition is called familial hypertriglyceridemia. Triglyceride levels above 200mg/dL in adults or 100mg/dL in children could be an indication of familial hypertriglyceridemia.

Familial hypertriglyceridemia can be treated with dietary and lifestyle changes. Medications such as prescription omega-3 fatty acids can be recommended by doctors if they feel the need for the same.


Medications used to treat cardiovascular diseases, antiviral and antipsychotic ailments and hormone imbalances can increase triglyceride levels. Furthermore, there are certain immunosuppressants, beta-blockers, birth control pills and diuretics that may cause high triglycerides as a side effect.

Research is still going on to determine how much of a threat is posed by medications on the levels of triglycerides. But to be on the safe side, the doctor may consider changing the medications to keep triglycerides in control along with treating the other ailments. A lipid panel or lipid profile test can be conducted periodically to check the triglyceride levels.

Intake of Excess Calories

Excess calories and sugar are converted into triglycerides before being stored as fat in our bodies. Hence, a diet which is inclusive of excess calories can result in high triglyceride levels. Consuming unprocessed foods which are high in calories can increase triglycerides and hence, transition to a low-fat and plant-based diet can help in reducing triglyceride levels.

Alcohol is a source of excess carbohydrates, calories and sugar. Thus, it may also result in raising triglycerides. Limiting the alcohol intake can be a wise option to curb excess calories and thereby lower high triglycerides.

Lack of Sleep

Consistent lack of sleep or sleeping for more than 10 hours may cause high triglycerides. Lack of sleep may cause high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and obesity. These can indirectly increase triglycerides.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where a person experiences disruptive and brief pauses in breathing throughout the night which also increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. Obstructive sleep apnea has also been connected with elevated triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.

On the contrary, sleeping for more than 10 hours per night can cause a metabolic syndrome in both men and women and elevate triglycerides. To maintain triglycerides and live a healthy lifestyle, everyone must sleep for 7-8 hours per night.

Stress and Triglyceride Levels

Chronic stress is deeply associated with triglycerides. Stress restricts the body’s ability to clear the fats from the blood and increases the production of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) particles in the liver. These particles carry triglycerides to the tissues in our body via the bloodstream and elevate triglyceride levels in the body.

Stress may also drive people to consume unhealthy food and drinks, such as alcohol, sugars, and carbohydrate-rich foods and thereby increase triglyceride levels. Practising mindful stress reduction with the help of at least 30 minutes of meditation or yoga and spending quality time with our loved ones can help in lowering high triglycerides. Also, engaging in regular physical activity can reduce stress and control triglycerides.

Controlling High Triglycerides

Making changes to your lifestyle and diet can have a significant benefit in reducing high triglycerides. Losing weight can have a substantial impact on triglyceride levels. Adopting a lifestyle consisting of regular exercise and a healthy diet plan can do wonders in weight loss.

Healthy Diet for a Healthy Life

While making a diet plan consult the healthcare provider to understand the food products which could be included in the daily diet with a focus on weight loss. Choosing the right amount and type of fats can be the key to healthy weight loss. Boost the intake of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are found in olive oil, nuts, and some fish instead of unhealthy trans fats found in processed foods, meat, butter and cheese. Alcohol consumption should be strictly limited during the weight loss journey.

Medical Treatment

Sometimes adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle changes may not be adequate to lower triglycerides. Doctors may prescribe medications along with diet and exercise to reduce high triglycerides.

Fibrates can be prescribed as these medications can lower triglycerides as well as improve cholesterol levels. Niacin or nicotinic acid can lower triglycerides and is also available as a nonprescription supplement along with being a prescription drug. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil and plant sources like flaxseed can also aid in keeping triglycerides under control.


High triglycerides can have an impact on health to a great extent if they are not controlled. With the help of a healthy diet, lifestyle changes and appropriate medicines, we can easily control triglyceride levels, provided we know the exact cause of the high levels. To lower high triglycerides, doctors as well as people should understand the root cause of the high levels and design their treatment plan accordingly.

Updated on: 02-Jan-2023


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