Have very high triglycerides? Follow these simple steps to lower them—and keep heart disease at bay.
You might worry about cholesterol, but don’t forget about triglycerides (trigs)—fat in your blood that’s used for energy. While your body needs some trigs to function, excessive amounts can be unhealthy. Here’s what you need to know:
Where do triglycerides come from?
After you eat, any fats your body doesn’t use immediately are converted to trigs and stored in fat cells, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Trigs give you the energy you need to keep going between meals.
Why should I worry about my trig level?
Very high triglycerides—also known as hypertriglyceridemia—can lead to heart disease. They can also lead to a condition called metabolic syndrome, which occurs when you have a combination of heart-related health problems such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, low “good” cholesterol and insulin resistance. The syndrome raises your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Hypertriglyceridemia usually has no symptoms, so be sure to get your cholesterol checked at least once every five years (possibly more often if your level is high), says the AHA. The blood test includes a trig measurement.
How much is too much?
According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, a very high level is 500 mg/dL or higher—and that’s a problem. Nearly one-third of adults have elevated trig levels, according to the AHA.
What can I do if I have very high trigs?
Simple lifestyle changes can decrease trig levels by 50% or more, according to a recent AHA scientific statement on triglycerides and cardiovascular disease. Medication can also be effective. Work with your healthcare provider to come up with a plan that’s right for you, and try these recommendations from the AHA: