Triglycerides are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats, but they are also part of your body.
Having normal triglyceride levels is essential for a person’s health. High triglyceride levels can be a risk factor for atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease, and pancreatitis.
Triglyceride levels can be controlled to some degree through lifestyle and food modifications. When necessary, your doctor may advise you to take medication.
Read on to find out what triglycerides are and the average, low and high levels.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are fatty compounds digested by the body that provide energy and perform critical metabolic functions.
Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body, and most of the fats in foods are found in this form.
To be absorbed, the different parts of triglycerides are broken down in the small intestine and then re-formed. This is a source of energy for the cells of the body.
Chemically, a triglyceride is a molecule of glycerol (a type of alcohol) to which three fatty acids have been attached. A typical triglyceride molecule would look like this:
Normal low and high triglyceride levels
Triglyceride and cholesterol levels can be measured in the blood and give information about a person’s risk of developing certain diseases.
Triglyceride levels are:
- Low – Less than 35 mg / dL
- Normal – between 35 – 150 mg per deciliter mg / dL.
- High limit – between 150-200 mg / dL.
- High – more than 200 mg / dl
- Extremely high – more than 500 mg / dl
Normal triglyceride levels are between 35 and 150 mg/dl; when the values are below 35 mg / dl, you are low, and above 150 mg per dl, you are high.
High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis and, therefore, coronary artery disease and stroke. Extremely high levels (greater than 500 mg/dl) can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
How are triglyceride levels measured?
A simple blood test measures triglyceride levels in the blood.
Triglycerides are typically measured as part of a lipid panel in which triglycerides, cholesterol, HDL, and LDL are measured simultaneously.
The test requires 8 to 12 hours of fasting as fat blood levels are affected by recent food intake. The results can be falsely high if the blood test is done right after eating.
Why do we need to lower triglycerides?
High triglyceride levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis, narrowing the arteries due to the accumulation of fatty plaques.
Atherosclerosis is associated with an increased heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Markedly elevated triglyceride levels can also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.
Also, some diseases can cause high levels of triglycerides in the blood, for example:
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Cirrhosis of the liver or other liver diseases.
- Some medications (beta-blockers, diuretics, birth control pills)
How to have normal triglyceride levels?
Living a healthy lifestyle: Eating right, exercising, quitting smoking, and losing weight may be all it takes to have normal triglyceride levels.
However, some people may need medicine to lower blood triglyceride levels. Your healthcare professional will help you decide what treatment is best for you.
The following dietary changes can help lower triglycerides.
- Cut down on sugar: If you like sweets, try limiting how often and how much sugar you consume. Remember to read labels to check the sugar content of both foods and beverages.
- Eat more whole foods: If you eat white rice, bread and pasta, switch to whole grains. It may take a while to get used to the difference in taste, but it’s well worth the effort.
- Less saturated and trans fat: Limit or avoid foods with saturated fat and trans fat. Fried foods, lard, butter, whole milk, ice cream, cold cuts, frozen foods, meats, and cheeses. Read nutrition labels to determine if these unhealthy fats are present.
- More vegetable oils: The best sources of healthy fats for people with high triglyceride levels are olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna.
How Alcohol Affects Triglyceride Levels
Drinking alcohol can raise blood triglyceride levels, as it causes the liver to produce more fatty acids.
However, the relationship is not so clear. There are some beneficial aspects of moderate alcohol consumption (a glass of wine, a can of beer, or an ounce of liquor).
Moderate alcohol consumption can slightly increase HDL levels (the good cholesterol) in the bloodstream, and some types, such as red wine, can lower the risk of heart disease due to their antioxidant content.
However, as a general rule, it is not recommended that people start drinking alcohol every day to reap these benefits. But instead, limit it to once sporadically.
Triglycerides are a type of fatty compound part of food and the human body.
Having normal triglyceride levels is associated with a lower risk of chronic cardiovascular disease. High levels can lead to heart and liver complications.
One of the most effective methods of lowering triglyceride levels from high to normal is leading a healthy lifestyle. However, some people may need the use of medications.