If your doctor has told you recently that you need to lower your triglycerides, you might be feeling a little confused or overwhelmed. We hear a lot about bad cholesterol, also known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) when it comes to heart health. However, excessive triglyceride levels can also cause serious health problems.
So, how can you lower your triglycerides? There’s no quick fix for this problem, so you might be out of luck if you’re looking for the best way to lower triglycerides fast. A healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce triglycerides long-term.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat molecule found in the blood, and they are the most common type of fat in the human body. At healthy levels, triglycerides perform an important function: providing energy.
High levels of triglycerides (also known as hypertriglyceridemia) can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. People with existing heart problems or a family history of heart attacks and heart disease should avoid high triglyceride levels.
The Difference Between Triglycerides and Cholesterol
Cholesterol and triglycerides are both lipids found in the blood, but they serve different functions in the body. Cholesterol helps build cells and create necessary hormones. On the other hand, triglycerides store up excess calories for energy use later.
What Are Normal Triglyceride Levels?
You can monitor triglycerides with blood tests. Generally, your doctor will order a lipid panel that checks the levels of several types of lipids, including triglycerides and cholesterol. Your doctor will ask you to fast before your blood draw to help ensure test accuracy, so you should not eat anything for 10-12 hours before getting your blood drawn.
Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Anything higher than that is considered hypertriglyceridemia and can put you at risk for serious health problems. Mildly high levels run from 150 to 199 mg/dL, high levels run 200 to 499 mg/dL, and very high levels are over 500 mg/dL. Your doctor will probably start you on medicine if your level is over 200 mg/dL.
Why is it Important to Lower Triglycerides?
High triglycerides can increase your risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. People with very high triglyceride levels can also develop pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas.
Most people with high triglyceride levels don’t experience any direct symptoms, but their triglyceride levels could still be causing problems that will present later.
If your triglycerides are high, you might be taking in more calories than your body needs. Other causes of high triglycerides levels include excessive alcohol use and metabolic syndrome, which involves obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia. Some medications can cause high triglyceride levels, and there can also be a family genetic link.
Best Ways to Lower Triglyceride Levels
Sometimes, a doctor will prescribe statins, a medication that reduces fat levels in the blood, for people with high triglycerides. But, this is most common only if you also have high cholesterol. If you have only high triglycerides, your doctor may prescribe a different type of medication called fibrates. Fibrates help lower triglycerides and treat metabolic disorders. These may not be safe for you if you have kidney or liver disease, so talk with your doctor about these risks. Doctors might also suggest supplements like fish oil and niacin but talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Generally, the best way to lower triglycerides is through lifestyle changes. Some tweaks to your diet and exercise regimen can make a big difference and help you get your triglycerides down to the normal range. Some lifestyle changes to consider include:
Changing the Way You Eat
Because triglycerides store extra calories, you might need to start cutting down on your daily calorie intake. By reducing calories, your body will begin using the energy stored in your lipids, reducing your triglycerides over time.
Paying attention to what you’re eating is as important as how much you eat. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol all contribute to high triglyceride levels. Cutting back on foods like white bread and white rice, pasta, sweets, white potatoes, and sugary drinks will go a long way towards getting your triglycerides under control.
Swap simple carbs for more nutritious choices, such as:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Whole fruit
- Whole-grain bread, crackers (containing fiber)
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and seeds
Limiting your alcohol intake is important for reducing triglycerides. Experts suggest that cutting out alcohol entirely can make a huge difference in triglyceride levels.
Regular physical activity, at least 30 minutes per day, is important for many reasons. Exercise will help you lower triglycerides naturally and lose weight, which will positively impact many aspects of your physical and mental health.
Making Lifestyle Changes Sustainable for Long-Term Health
your habits can be challenging. Even if your doctor tells you that your lifestyle is causing high triglycerides, it might be hard to change your behavior. This is especially true because high triglycerides don’t usually cause any symptoms on their own. The key to success is making your new lifestyle changes sustainable.
- Occasional treats: You don’t have to abstain from dessert completely to make a difference in your triglycerides. You just need to cut back and turn your favorites into special, occasional treats.
- Finding exercises you enjoy: If you’re busy and never feel like working out, it can be difficult to get and stay physically fit. Finding the kinds of exercise you enjoy will help you stay on track and allow you to fit more movement into your day.
- Making exercise manageable: You can also add in smaller intervals of physical activity during your normal routines. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Wear a fitness tracker and set a step goal for the day. Meet up with friends for a walk instead of coffee when the weather is nice.
The best way to lower triglycerides fast is to implement significant lifestyle changes right away. To keep your triglycerides within the normal levels, however, you need to make sustainable lifestyle changes that still allow you to enjoy your life while helping you maintain optimal health.
Keep in Touch With Your Doctor
Your doctor should be your first resource when you have questions like “how can I lower triglycerides?” or “how do I lower cholesterol?” They are familiar with your health background and can help you decide on the best way to lower triglycerides with smart lifestyle changes. Remember, your doctor has your best interests at heart, and they want you to be successful in reaching your health goals!
They will also want to monitor your triglycerides and cholesterol levels to make sure you are making progress and minimizing the risk of serious health problems. Ask your doctor about how often you should get your lipids checked, and be sure to follow their recommendations.
- “Triglycerides: Why do they matter?” via the Mayo Clinic
- “HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides” via the American Heart Association
- “Lipid Panel” via the Cleveland Clinic
- “How To Lower Your Triglycerides Naturally” via the Cleveland Clinic
- “Hypertriglyceridemia” via National Library of Medicine