Triglycerides are a type
of fat found in your blood. Your body uses them for energy.
need some triglycerides for good health. But high triglycerides might raise your
risk of heart disease and may be a sign of
Metabolic syndrome is
the combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, too much fat around
the waist, low HDL ("good") cholesterol, and high triglycerides. Metabolic
syndrome increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
A blood test that measures your
cholesterol also measures your triglycerides. For a
general idea about your triglycerides level, compare your test results to the
triglycerides are usually caused by other conditions, such as:
Certain medicines may also raise triglycerides. These
In a few cases, high triglycerides also can run in
High triglycerides usually
don't cause symptoms.
But if your high triglycerides are caused by
a genetic condition, you may see fatty deposits under your skin. These are
called xanthomas (say "zan-THOH-muhs").
make diet and lifestyle changes to help lower your levels.
You also may need medicine to help lower your
triglycerides. But your doctor likely will ask you to try diet and lifestyle
Learning about high triglycerides:
Living with high triglycerides:
The most common causes of
high triglycerides are
obesity and poorly controlled
diabetes. If you are overweight and are not active,
you may have high triglycerides, especially if you eat a lot of
carbohydrate or sugary foods or drink a lot of
Binge drinking of alcohol can cause dangerous spikes in triglyceride levels
that can trigger inflammation of the
Other causes of high
hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and certain
inherited lipid disorders.
Estrogen therapy, which may be used for
menopause symptoms, may also raise triglyceride levels. Certain medicines may
also raise triglycerides. These medicines include:
High triglycerides rarely occur on their own. They are
usually associated with other conditions.
High triglycerides are
a part of
metabolic syndrome, a group of medical problems that
increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome
High triglycerides by themselves do not cause symptoms. If your high
triglycerides are caused by a genetic condition, you may have visible fatty
deposits under the skin called xanthomas.
In rare cases, people
who have very high triglyceride levels may develop inflammation of the
which can cause sudden, severe abdominal (belly) pain, loss of appetite, nausea and
vomiting, and fever.
Triglycerides are categorized as
If you have high triglycerides, you may also have
high cholesterol. In many cases, people don't know
that they have high triglycerides until they have a blood test called a
lipoprotein analysis to check their cholesterol
If your triglyceride levels are high, your doctor will
also check for and treat other associated conditions that may be linked to high
triglycerides. These conditions include
kidney disease, and
You can use diet and lifestyle
changes to lower triglyceride levels.
Diet and lifestyle changes include:
You may also take medicines to lower triglyceride levels.
Medicines may be used if you have risk factors for
coronary artery disease (CAD).
For more information on cholesterol treatment, see the topic
Diet and lifestyle changes are the first steps you will take to lower
Diet and lifestyle
Eat a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
Limit saturated fat and avoid trans fat. Limit sodium and sugar.
Eating fish may lower triglyceride levels. Eating at least 2 servings of fish each week is part of a heart-healthy diet. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.
Fish oil supplements can also lower triglycerides. But doctors do not agree about whether these supplements can help
protect your heart. If you have very high triglycerides, your doctor may recommend you take fish oil to try to prevent pancreatitis.
To reduce carbohydrate in your diet, you may want to
learn about the
amount of carbohydrate in various foods.
Alcohol has a particularly strong effect on triglycerides. Regular,
excessive use of alcohol or even a one-time drinking binge can cause a
significant increase in triglycerides.
Binge drinking can cause a spike in your triglycerides that may trigger
pancreatitis. Your doctor will want you either to stop
or to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
Before you increase
your activity, check with your doctor to be sure it is safe. You may also want
to talk with a dietitian to design a nutrition program that is right for you.
Your doctor will also look for anything else that might be
causing your high triglycerides, such as
hypothyroidism, poorly controlled
diabetes, kidney disease, or medicines. Your doctor
may adjust or stop any medicines that might raise your triglyceride
triglycerides are still high after you make lifestyle
changes, you may need to take medicine as well. Whether your doctor prescribes
medicine for high triglycerides depends on more than just your triglyceride
number. Your doctor will also look at your cholesterol levels and other risk factors (things that increase your risk) for heart disease before prescribing a medicine for high
If you have high cholesterol and other risk factors
for heart disease, you may need a combination of medicines that target the
different types of cholesterol. The medicines that you might take are:
Statins are used to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Statins
may also lower triglycerides. If you have both high LDL cholesterol and high
triglycerides, your doctor may first prescribe statins to lower your LDL and
later prescribe a medicine to lower your triglycerides.
triglycerides are very high even after lifestyle changes, your doctor may first
use medicine to lower your triglycerides to prevent damage to your
Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives) should be used with
caution by people who are also taking statins. There is a greater risk for a life-threatening muscle problem called
rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to kidney failure. So
it is important that your kidneys and liver are healthy before you take this
combination of medicines. If you have any muscle problems or pain, report it
immediately to your doctor.
Diet and lifestyle changes can help
triglycerides. For example:
CitationsMiller M, et al. (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20): 2292-2333.Other Works ConsultedEckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.Miller M, et al. (2011). Triglycerides and cardiovascular disease: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 123(20): 2292-2333.U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofMay 23, 2017
Current as of:
May 23, 2017
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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Last modified on: 8 September 2017