What Causes Triglycerides to Be High?

Reviewed on 3/1/2021

What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are a fat-like substance in the blood the body uses for energy. The body needs triglycerides, but too much of them can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, pancreatitis, and other health problems.
Triglycerides are a fat-like substance in the blood the body uses for energy. The body needs triglycerides, but too much of them can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, pancreatitis, and other health problems.

Triglycerides are a fat-like substance in the blood the body uses for energy. The body needs some triglycerides but too much of them can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, pancreatitis, and other health problems.

What Are Symptoms of High Triglycerides?

High triglycerides often don’t cause any symptoms.

When high triglycerides are caused by a genetic condition, fatty deposits under the skin (xanthomas) may occur. 

Very high triglyceride levels (above 1000 mg/dL) may cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), which can cause severe constant pain in the upper part of the abdomen.

What Causes Triglycerides to Be High?

High triglycerides are caused by some medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and certain medications.

Medical conditions that can cause high triglycerides include: 

High triglycerides can also have a genetic cause and run in families.

How Are High Triglycerides Diagnosed?

High triglycerides are diagnosed with a blood test called a lipid panel that measures total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in the blood. The table below tells you what your measurements may indicate for your triglyceride levels.

Triglyceride Level Ranges

Normal

Less than 150 mg/dL
Borderline High150-199 mg/dL
High200-499 mg/dL
Very High500 mg/dL or greater

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Your Cholesterol & Save Your Heart See Slideshow

What Is the Treatment for High Triglycerides?

Triglycerides may be lowered in some cases by making lifestyle changes, such as: 

  • Losing weight if you are overweight
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Increasing fiber in the diet
  • Adding more omega-3 fatty acids to the diet
    • Foods high in omega 3’s include: 
      • Dark, leafy green vegetables
      • Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel
      • Soy and legumes
      • Walnuts
      • Ground flax seed 
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol 
  • Avoiding foods and drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates 
  • Avoiding red meat, fried foods, cheese, butter, oils, and nuts, especially in patients who have triglycerides over 500
  • Managing diabetes 

Dietary changes such as avoiding sugars, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol, along with adding more omega-3 fatty acids to the diet may lower triglycerides more quickly. 

High triglycerides may also be treated with medications, such as:

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Reviewed on 3/1/2021
References
https://www.uptodate.com/contents/high-triglycerides-the-basics?search=high%20triglycerides&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/zp3387

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/hypertriglyceridemia?search=high%20triglycerides&source=search_result&selectedTitle=4~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=4#H8

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2007/0501/p1365.html

https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/894508

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK326741/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4002029/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28098593/