Triglyceride is a fatty substance similar to cholesterol. We need some triglyceride, like we need some cholesterol. But, like cholesterol, too much damages blood vessels and raises the risks for heart disease. A desirable triglyceride level is less than 150mg/dl. 150-199mg/dl is considered borderline high, 200-499mg/dl is high, and 500mg/d or more is very high.

Triglyceride level Triglyceride category
Less than 150 mg/dl Desirable
150-199 mg/dl Borderline high
200-499 mg/dl High
500 mg/dl and higher Very high

Many of the things that raise LDL can also raise triglycerides:

  • Obesity, untreated diabetes, untreated hypothyroidism, chronic renal disease, liver disease, and lack of estrogen in women. Triglycerides, as well as LDL and total cholesterol tend to increase during the perimenopausal period, and HDL decreases. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise during this time will help minimize these lipid changes.
  • Losing weight if obese, and treating the above medical conditions as best as possible will help lower triglycerides. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to increase estrogen levels is not used to treat high triglycerides because of the other medical risks associated with HRT.
  • Excess alcohol intake raises triglycerides; decreasing or stopping alcohol consumption will help lower high levels.
  • Vegetarian or very low fat diets that are very high in carbohydrates, or diets high in refined carbohydrates, can raise triglycerides. Changing the diet to reduce carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, and sometimes increasing protein and/or replacing saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet with healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) can help lower triglycerides.
  • Quitting smoking has also been shown to reduce triglycerides.

A small proportion of people with very high triglycerides are deficient in lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme needed to process triglycerides. This is most often treated with medication and by reducing fat in the diet to less than 10%. Your doctor can let you know if this pertains to you.