Triglycerides are stored in fat cells and are released by hormones to create energy in the body. Experts say that a normal triglyceride level is under 150 mg/dl of blood. Between 150 to 199 is considered borderline high by the National Institutes of Health. Between 200 and 499 is high, while 500 or above is regarded as very high.
High triglyceride levels (a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia) can be dangerous. This can harden arteries and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Excessively high levels can lead to fatty deposits in the skin and organs. As a result, blood flow can become impaired. This can increase the odds of suffering from a stroke or heart attack. The risk of pancreatitis, Type 2 diabetes, dementia and liver disease also become dangerously elevated.
Fortunately, certain lifestyle changes can help lower triglycerides. This includes maintaining a healthy weight and diet, avoiding saturated and trans fats, getting more omega-3s (fish oil supplements can be a great source), and avoiding alcohol. Butter, poultry skin, whole milk and other unhealthy fats should also be avoided. In some cases, medications may be used to help lower triglycerides. Steroids, beta-blockers, statins, diuretics and birth control pills can all have this effect. Niacin is another drug that can significantly cut triglycerides.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, triglycerides and cholesterol are similar in that they’re both fatty substances called lipids. However, triglycerides are considered fat. (Cholesterol is not.) Triglyceride levels are usually measured during a blood test known as a lipid profile. If you are over the age of 20, experts recommend getting a lipid profile test every five years. If you are preparing for a test, be sure to fast beforehand as triglyceride levels tend to be higher after eating. Pregnancy, menstruation, physical activity and alcohol can all affect your score.
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