How to Lower Triglyceride Levels

Three Methods:Changing Your Diet and LifestyleUsing Medication and SupplementsUnderstanding Triglycerides

There is a well-known association between elevated triglycerides and cardiovascular disease. However, the extent to which triglycerides directly cause cardiovascular disease (CVD) or represent a biomarker of risk has been debated for decades. In the United States, the mean triglyceride levels have continued to rise over the past fifty years. This has a correlation to the rise in rates of type II diabetes, insulin resistance, and obesity resistance. The American Heart Association guidelines indicate lifestyle strategies to be largely effective in impacting triglyceride levels.[1] This means that lifestyle changes, along with medicine in some cases, can help effectively lower your triglyceride levels.

Method 1
Changing Your Diet and Lifestyle

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    Reduce refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. To help reduce your triglycerides, you should eliminate or limit refined sugars and simple carbohydrates. These often go hand in hand, with many products having both. These include white flour, white sugar, sugary carbonated soda, candy, cakes, pastries, breads, cereals, and pasta.
    • Instead, include some healthy complex carbohydrates in your diet, such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, whole grain bread, and whole wheat pasta. The added fiber in these foods will also help pull the triglycerides from your system.
    • You should also avoid any product with high fructose corn syrup in it because of its elevated sugar content.[2][3]
    • It is a common misconception that consuming high levels of carbohydrates only impacts blood sugar. It also impacts triglyceride levels.
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    Eat fresh foods. Instead of eating fast or poorly prepared food full of trans and saturated fats and calories, make as much food as you can at home. Fresh vegetables and fruit are much better for you than canned or frozen, which can have hidden ingredients or fats. The fiber and nutrients in fresh produce will help lower your triglyceride levels and help you maintain a healthy weight.
    • All of your vegetables should be fresh if possible with your budget. When making a meal, vegetables should comprise two-thirds of your plate.[4][5]
    • If you can’t afford fresh food at the grocery store, look for a farmer’s market or co-op that might have lower rates on fresh produce.
    • Vegetables and fruits are high in fiber. Fiber is very effective to help lower triglyceride levels.
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    Eat more protein. Protein can help decrease your triglyceride levels. Focus on lean, healthy meats, such as skinless chicken and lean red meat, instead of fatty red meat or unskinned chicken. You can also get your protein from plant sources, such as beans, certain legumes, and soy products.[6]
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    Consume healthy fish. Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for lowering triglyceride levels. Incorporate fish into your diet at least two to three times a week. This includes fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.
    • This will also help you cut down on red meats and other fatty meats.
    • You can also get omega-3s from dark leafy green vegetables, flaxseeds, walnuts, soy products, and legumes.[7][8]
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    Choose better fats. The oil you use can greatly impact the kinds of fat you eat. Instead of using vegetable oil, use olive, peanut, canola, walnut, flaxseed, or coconut oil. These have healthy monounsaturated fats instead, which are much better for your body.
    • Also avoid products with hydrogenated oils in them. Look on the labels of any store bought food product to ensure you eliminate any with these harmful oils in them.[9][10]
    • Contrary to what you might think, fats are not the enemy. In fact, healthy fats can actually help improve triglyceride levels.
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    Drink less alcohol. Alcohol raises your triglyceride levels. It is also full of empty calories and sugar, which also contribute to the rise in triglyceride levels. Try to eliminate your alcohol consumption altogether. If you can’t, limit it to one drink a day.
    • This is true for all types of alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and hard liquor. [11][12]
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    Exercise. Exercise has a dramatic impact on triglyceride levels. The American Heart Association recommends sustained aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes five days a week and muscle toning exercises for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week.[13]
    • Switch up your workout routine so you don’t get bored. Go walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, or biking. Try classes in yoga, spinning, pilates, or weight training. Just keep mixing it up so you don’t get bored.
    • This will also help you lose weight. Even a loss of 10 pounds can greatly affect your triglyceride levels. Ask your doctor what the ideal weight is for your body type and situation.[14]

Method 2
Using Medication and Supplements

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    Take fibrates. Fibrates are medications that help lower your triglyceride levels that can help with triglyceride levels. These work best in those with levels over 500 mg/dL. Ask your doctor before taking these with any other medications to avoid side effects.
    • Try different kinds, such as gemfibrozil, which should be taken by mouth in a dose of 1200 mg daily. You can also try fenofibrate, which is taken in a dose of 145 mg orally every day.[15][16]
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    Try niacin. Niacin, also called nicotinic acid, is the most effective triglyceride lowering agent for those with levels over 500 mg/dL. It helps your bad cholesterol levels as well. The supplement can be bought over the counter, but talk to your doctor before taking it. The recommended dosage is 1500 to 2000 mg per day.
    • Some patients do not react well to it because it causes flushing. [17][18]
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    Use fish oils. Fish oils, also known as omega 3 fatty acids, are supplements of the natural fats found in healthy fish. You need high doses of this supplement for it to be effective, so it is best used by those with levels over 500 mg/dL.
    • Although most fish oil supplements are not regulated by the FDA, you can take Vascepa, a 1 gm ultra pure FDA approved omega-3 fatty acid supplement. You can also take the first prescription form, Epanova, but only if your levels are above 500 mg/dL and it is prescribed by your doctor.
    • Supplements should be taken in doses of 4 grams per day.[19][20]
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    Take statins. Statins are typically used to lower cholesterol, but they are also used to lower triglycerides. These are typically only prescribed if you also have high bad cholesterol levels, low good cholesterol levels, or have a history or blocked arteries.
    • Ask about prescriptions atorvastatins such as Lipitor or simvastatins such as Zocor. [21]

Method 3
Understanding Triglycerides

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    Recognize the link to an unhealthy diet. Triglycerides are consumed in the diet, with certain “culprit” foods containing more of these triglycerides than others. We know that triglycerides have little nutritional value but a significant number of calories. There are associations with obesity and hypertriglyceridemia, or high triglyceride levels. There are growing consensus among researchers that what you eat is to a large extent causing disease.
    • In a study of pre-diagnosed breast cancer patients who were awaiting biopsy, a triglyceride study was taken. Around 84 patients were diagnosed with breast cancer and also had elevated levels of triglycerides. The women were also found to have extremely low levels of beta-carotene, which is found in fresh carrots.[22] These statistics show that these participants did not have a healthy diet.
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    Understand other causes. Other than an unhealthy diet, there are other conditions that can cause high levels of triglycerides. Make sure you tell your doctor any medical history or medication you take in order to help pinpoint why your levels may be high. High levels can be caused by:
    • Liver damage and cirrhosis
    • Uncontrolled diabetes
    • Kidney disorders
    • A diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates
    • Genetic disorders
    • Underactive thyroid
    • Medications, including female hormones[23]
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    Learn the side effects. High triglyceride levels contribute to heart disease. Elevated triglycerides also cause acute pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening.[24]
    • In addition to these conditions, elevated triglycerides have been shown to cause problems in men. In the study of approximately 1200 male participants, a correlation was found between subclinical hypothyroidism and cardiovascular disease among males 50 years and younger, where hypothyroidism was discovered and diagnosed in approximately 20% of the population. It was discovered that these young males had a statistically significant rate of cardiovascular disease and elevated triglycerides.[25]
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    Understand the link between cancer and triglycerides levels. Research is still being done on triglycerides, and their role in disease is difficult to determine because there are so many factors that go into it. However, triglycerides are found in unhealthy foods, which can cause obesity. Obesity leads to an increase in fat cells that secrete estrogen in men and women, which is linked to several cancers.
    • A large study of triglyceride risk and cancer was done, with 156,000 patients with elevated triglycerides (ETG) studied over the course of 10 years in Austria. Over this period, 5,079 cancers were found in men and 4,738 were found in women. The study’s conclusions indicated that rectal, lung, thyroid, prostate, and all gynecologic and breast cancers were associated with an increased triglyceride level.[26]
    • In another study of 5.24 million subjects from the United Kingdom, 166,955 developed cancer. This study led to the discovery that for every 5 kilogram per meter-squared increase in BMI, there is an associated higher risk of cancers of the uterus, kidney, cervix, thyroid, liver, colon, ovaries, and breast.[27]
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    Get your triglyceride levels checked. When you have your triglycerides checked, your doctor will take your blood and check the levels in it. You should fast eight to 12 hours before your blood is taken and do not work out before the test. The results of the test can vary within a large scale, ranging from normal to very high. The scale of values is:
    • Normal is <150 mg/dL
    • Borderline is 150-199 mg/dL
    • High is 200-499 mg/dL
    • Very High is >500 mg/dL
    • Levels of 1000 mg/dL are associated with pancreatitis, which is extremely dangerous.[28]

Sources and Citations

  1. Miller, Michael, Stone, Neil, and Ballantyne, Christie. Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association, Circulation 2011 123 2292-2333
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