What are high triglycerides? — Triglycerides are fat-like substances in the blood. Everyone has them, but some people have too much of them. This can cause high levels of triglycerides in the blood, also called "high triglycerides."
Compared with people who have normal triglycerides, people with high triglycerides can have a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other health problems.
People with very high triglycerides can get inflammation in the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that makes hormones and fluids to help the body break down food. When the pancreas gets inflamed, it can cause serious health problems.
What should my triglyceride level be? — Ask your doctor or nurse what your triglyceride level should be. In general, levels are:
Normal – Less than 150 mg/dL (If you live outside the United States, triglycerides are measured differently. The normal level is less than 1.7 mmol/L.)
A little bit high – 150 to 499 mg/dL (1.7 to 5.6 mmol/L)
Moderately high – 500 to 886 mg/dL (5.6 to 10.0 mmol/L)
Very high – Greater than 886 mg/dL (10.0 mmol/L)
Am I at higher risk for heart attack or stroke? — Yes. Having high triglycerides increases your risk of heart attacks and stroke. But this is just 1 of many things that can increase your risk. You are also at higher risk if you:
Have high blood pressure
Have a parent, sister, or brother who got heart disease at a young age. (Young, in this case, means younger than 55 for men and younger than 65 for women.)
Are a man – Women are at risk too, but men have a higher risk.
Have diabetes – Especially if you cannot control your blood sugar well.
Your doctor can talk to you about your personal risk of having a heart attack or stroke. There are things you can do to lower your risk.
Should I take medicine to lower my triglycerides? — Not everyone who has high triglycerides needs medicines to lower them. Your doctor will decide if you need medicine. It depends on your age, family history, and other health concerns.
Medicines can include:
Medicines to lower triglyceride levels – These include fenofibrate (sample brand names: Antara, Fenoglide), nicotinic acid (sample brand names: Niacor, Niaspan), or fish oil (brand name: Lovaza).
Statins – These medicines can reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. They are used to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Many people with high triglycerides also have high cholesterol.
The medicine you take will depend on your triglyceride levels and other factors. If your triglycerides are very high, you might need more than 1 medicine.
Can I lower my triglycerides without medicines? — Yes, you might be able to lower high triglycerides if you:
Lose weight (if you are overweight)
Get regular exercise
Avoid foods and drinks with a lot of sugar and carbohydrates – These include white bread, fruit juice, soda, and sweets.
Avoid red meat, butter, fried foods, cheese, oils, and nuts – This can help if your triglycerides are over 500.
Limit alcohol – This generally means no more than 2 drinks a day for men, and no more than 1 drink a day for women. If your triglycerides are over 500, ask your doctor or nurse if it is safe to drink alcohol.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 86012 Version 12.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
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