Triglycerides Levels – Normal, High, Low

Triglycerides are a kind of lipid or fat, which are present in the blood. When one eats, the body turns the calories that are not need at that moment into triglycerides. These are preserved in the fat cells and are later released by hormones for energy provision between meals. Individuals who are prone to regularly consume more calories as compared to burning them, especially the easy calories such as fats and carbohydrates, then they are at increased risk to presence of high triglycerides.

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It may be noted that triglycerides and cholesterol are different kinds of lipids which circulate in the blood. Triglycerides accumulate unused calories and offer energy to the body, while cholesterol has an role to play in the buildup of cells and some hormones. Both cholesterol and triglycerides cannot dissolve in blood and hence they travel across the body with the aid of proteins that carry the lipids.

Triglycerides Levels

The level of triglycerides and whether it is within the healthy/normal range can be identified with the help of a simple blood test. The different levels of triglycerides are as follows:

  • Normal range of triglycerides is considered as lower than 150 mg/dL, i.e. milligrams per deciliter, OR as lower than 1.7 mmol/L, i.e. millimoles per liter
  • A borderline high range of triglycerides is considered as 150 to 199 mg/dL, OR as 1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L
  • A high range of triglycerides is considered as 200 to 499 mg/dL, OR as 2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L
  • A very high range of triglycerides is considered as 500 mg/dL or above, OR as 5.7 mmol/L or above

As per the recommendation of the American Heart Association, a triglyceride level of 1.1 mmol/L (100 mg/dL) or lower is thought to be optimal. Such a level of triglycerides can cause improvement of overall health. However, one should not indulge in drug use to achieve this level. Instead, people who wish to lower the level of triglycerides and achieve the optimal status can resort to lifestyle changes like weight loss, diet and physical activities. This is because of the fact that triglycerides are generally responsive to lifestyle and dietary changes.

A physician will generally verify the presence of high triglycerides as part of a lipid profile or a cholesterol test. Individuals who wish to test the triglycerides levels need to fast for 9 to 12 hours before a sample of blood can be taken for precise triglycerides calculation.

High triglycerides – causes and effects

It is understood that triglycerides may be responsible for thickening of the arterial walls as well as hardening of the arteries, which in turn can increase the susceptibility to cardiac arrest, stroke and heart disorders.

High levels of triglycerides are regularly a symptom of various diseases that increase the vulnerability of stroke, obesity, heart conditions and metabolic syndrome, which is a group of disorders involving excess accumulation of fat in the waist region, hypertension, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and abnormal levels of cholesterol.

On occasions, high triglyceride levels can also be a symptom of poorly regulated type 2 diabetes, kidney or liver disease, decreased levels of thyroid hormones, or of rare genetic abnormalities that can affect the ability of the body to convert fat into energy. Additionally, high levels of triglycerides can also be a possible side effect of consuming certain drugs such as birth control pills, beta blockers, diuretics, the breast cancer medicine tamoxifen or steroids.

How to lower triglyceride levels with diet and exercises

The best way to lower the levels of triglycerides is to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. Some ways to lower triglyceride levels include:

  • Overweight individuals should lose weight to lower the triglyceride levels
  • Refined foods like white flour products and sugary foods have simple carbohydrates which raise triglycerides. Hence avoid them.
  • Reduce the calorie intake as excess calories are converted into triglycerides
  • Instead of consuming meats which have saturated fat, change the diet to contain plants like peanut, olive and canola oils that contain monounsaturated fats. Additionally, substitute the red meat in diets to fish, such as salmon and mackerel, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Restrict the daily intake of cholesterol to 300 milligrams or less and 200 mg for a cardiac patient. Egg yolks, meats with high content of saturated fat and whole milk products have a high concentration of cholesterol and hence should be avoided
  • Complete avoid food items that have trans fat, which include some commercial baked products and fried foods, as well as products containing partially hydrogenated oil
  • It is important to engage in at least thirty minutes of exercise or physical activity to lower the triglyceride and bad cholesterol levels as well as to raise the levels of good cholesterol.
  • Alcohol has high levels of sugar and calories and can strongly affect the triglyceride levels. It may be noted that even small quantities of alcohol can increase the levels of triglycerides. Hence, limit the amount or alcohol intake or completely avoid it.

In addition to the above changes, the doctor may recommend certain medications to lower the triglyceride level if required. These medications are generally given to lower the levels of bad cholesterol and include drugs such as niacin, fibrates, Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, and statins.

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