What you need to know about triglycerides and heart health

Triglycerides are produced in the liver. They are another type of fat found in the blood and in food.

According to researchers from the NIH, many things can lead to high triglycerides, including overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol intake, and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60% of calories or higher).

Recent research has shown that triglyceride levels that are borderline high (150–199 mg/dL) or high (200–499 mg/dL) may increase the risk for heart disease.

In addition, triglyceride levels of 500 mg/dL or more need to be lowered with medications to prevent the pancreas from becoming inflamed.

A triglyceride level of 150 mg/dL or higher also is one of the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome.

To reduce blood triglyceride levels, people need to control body weight, be physically active, don’t smoke, limit alcohol intake, and limit simple sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Regular physical activity can raise HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and lower triglycerides. It also improves the fitness of the heart and lungs and lower blood pressure.

Losing the extra body weight can improve the cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Food high in omega-3 fats may help reduce triglyceride levels and the risk for heart rhythm problems.

Alcohol, on the other hand, can contribute to both high blood pressure and high triglycerides.

Sometimes, medication also is needed to lower triglyceride levels. For example, statins can moderately lower triglycerides and raise HDL.

Other medicines such as nicotinic acid can improve all lipoproteins—total cholesterol, LDL (the bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and HDL.

Drug fibrates mostly lower triglycerides and raise HDL levels to a lesser degree.

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