Roughly one-third of American adults have high triglycerides. Doctors and scientists are still working to understand exactly when high triglycerides are a cause and when they’re an effect of certain conditions.
For example, people with high triglycerides often have other symptoms that indicate they have a condition called metabolic syndrome.
At Heart & Vascular Institute, our providers routinely monitor the triglyceride levels of our patients because a high level of triglycerides in your blood is associated with a greater risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you have other risk factors, such as being obese or a smoker, it’s even more important to have regular screenings and work to keep your triglyceride levels in healthy range.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. Your triglyceride levels are measured during a blood test called a lipid panel; lipid is another word for fat.
If you have high triglycerides, you’re likely to have low HDL (so-called good cholesterol) and high LDL (bad cholesterol) as well. There are exceptions, but the three measurements are often correlated.
What should you do about high triglycerides?
Happily, the best way to treat high triglycerides is through lifestyle interventions that tend to be good for your overall health. For example, eating a diet that’s rich in vegetables and fruits and low in highly processed foods and unhealthy fats can help lower your triglyceride levels.
Alcohol consumption is associated with high triglycerides. Even a moderate amount of alcohol can lead to triglyceride spikes. Drink only occasionally, or limit yourself to one drink per day.
Exercise is another important part of a healthy lipid panel. Each week, aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise that raises your heart rate — about a half-hour for five days. If you’re not sure about what exercise you can do safely, talk to your provider at Heart & Vascular Institute.
If you’re overweight or obese, losing a few pounds could help lower your triglycerides. Start by tracking the number of calories you consume on an average day, then work to reduce that number to a point where you can lose weight.
For most people, an appropriate number of calories is high enough that you don’t feel hungry, but low enough to allow you to lose about a pound a week.
Regular screenings are important
Particularly if you have additional risk factors, monitoring your triglyceride levels is important. Extremely high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatitis and other complications. Monitoring is also a good way to find out if your lifestyle interventions are effective.
When lifestyle changes aren’t enough
Sometimes changing your diet and exercise habits simply isn’t enough to lower your lipids to a safe level. In such cases, your doctor may suggest supplements like niacin or fish oil, or they may prescribe a drug like a statin.
If you have questions about your blood test results, or you’d like more information about how you can go about lowering your triglyceride levels, call one of our locations in Dearborn, Detroit, or Southfield, Michigan, or use the online booking tool to schedule your appointment.