What to do when you have high triglycerides

Proper diet, no alcohol and physical activity: here are the first measures to reduce triglycerides that are too high.

What are triglycerides

Triglycerides are the main components of adipose tissue, i.e. fat molecules (lipidsthat the body accumulates as an energy source or as a thermal insulator, protecting us from low temperatures.

These are very common lipids in nature, whose formation depends on a chemical process involving a molecule of glycerol and three molecules of fatty acids (substances with a high caloric intake, distinguished according to the length of their carbon chain).

Most of the triglycerides present in our blood come from the diet, only a small part is produced by the body, and more precisely by the liver.

The triglycerides absorbed by the intestine through digestion, and therefore the result of our diet, are transported in the blood by lipoproteins called chylomicrons, while those produced by the liver are transported by VLDL or “very low density lipoproteins”.

Therefore, triglycerides are not to be considered absolutely as our rivals even if, when their levels in the blood increase excessively, they can pose serious risks, especially for the heart.

What is hypertriglyceridemia

This term indicates the presence of an excess of triglycerides in the blood, a condition that can represent a danger to organs such as liver, pancreas and heart, especially if in the presence of risk factors attributable to other disorders.

The normal values of triglycerides, fasting, are between 50 and 150 mg / dl, while if these levels are exceeded we speak of hypertriglyceridemiamild, severe and very severe, depending on its entity.

Mild hypertriglyceridemia 150-199 md/dl
Severe hypertriglyceridemia up to 500 mg/dl
Very severe hypertriglyceridemia > 500 mg/dl

Triglyceride counts are done through simple blood tests; often, however, to have a more complete picture of cardiovascular risk, total cholesterol is also investigated in parallel, i.e. the level of HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) and LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol).

For a correct interpretation of the report, and therefore to arrive at the right diagnosis, the doctor must also consider the possible intake of drugs and active ingredients that could alter triglyceride levels, such as:

  • beta-blockers, drugs used in the treatment of certain cardiovascular diseases;
  • estrogens, substances used to counteract the effects of menopause;
  • birth control pills;
  • cholestyramine, an active ingredient used in the treatment of patients with high blood cholesterol levels;
  • some psychotics.

Causes and consequences of hypertriglyceridemia

In medicine,  the causes of hypertriglyceridemia are classified into genetic (or primitive) and acquired (or secondary), depending on whether the excess in the production of triglycerides is due to familiarity alone, and therefore to genetic alterations, or to other factors.

However, among the main causes that determine hypertriglyceridemia in adults we find above all the secondary ones. The latter are:

  • excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages of any strength;
  • Sedentary lifestyle ;
  • incorrect eating habits , overweight, obesity and other metabolic disorders (such as metabolic syndrome );
  • caloric excesses, especially if associated with the ingestion of simple and refined sugars;
  • type 2 diabetes mellitus ;
  • hypothyroidism ;
  • estrogen-based drugs, beta-blockers, diuretics, steroids, etc.;
  • changes in liver, pancreas and kidney function.

High levels of triglycerides in the blood , especially if accompanied by an increase in an increase in blood pressure, , a reduction in the fraction of “good” cholesterol (a reduction in the fraction of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and an increase in that of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), increase the risk of incurring cardiovascular disease, coronary artery disease, thrombosis, Stroke , acute pancreatitis or xanthomas (accumulations of fat under the skin’s surface that appear as yellow or orange blisters with a well-defined outline).

How to fix high triglycerides

In order to bring triglycerides back within acceptable limits, it is necessary to intervene in the first place on the factors that determine the levels of concentration in the blood, i.e. on nutrition and physical activity.

For this reason, the most consolidated strategies to lower them are based on a healthy and balanced diet , which includes a sufficient intake of water and essential foods for nutrition, and on adequate physical activity .

In the most serious situations, however, it will be necessary to combine these first measures with targeted pharmacological therapy , which can also be associated with natural products.

In any case, before making any changes to your diet, it is important to consult your doctor or an expert nutritionist to adopt the most appropriate diet for your needs.

Get rid of the extra kilos

Being energy sources, triglycerides increase in the body whenever we take in more calories than we consume.

The first thing to do, therefore, is to lose the extra pounds by reducing the amount of calories introduced each day and increasing those consumed.

In most cases, mild hypertriglyceridemia resolves with reduction of body weight.

Yes to complex carbohydrates

Sugars or complex carbohydrates (to be clear, those of whole grains and legumes) are molecules formed by long chains of sugars which can be the same or different from each other. This articulated chemical structure causes them to be absorbed by the intestine more slowly than simple ones, thus reducing the peaks of blood sugar and therefore of insulin which, especially in sedentary subjects, favors the conversion of nutrients into fatty acids.

The main sources of simple sugars (such as fructose, lactose and maltose) are pasta, baked goods, cakes, jams, pizza, etc.

Complex carbohydrates enter the blood less quickly and therefore stimulate the production of triglycerides by the liver to a lesser extent.

It has also been observed that in some people fructose, i.e. the sugar which figs, persimmons, bananas and grapes are especially rich in, is a powerful stimulus to the production of triglycerides. It is therefore better to prefer slightly or medium-sweet fruit and not excessively ripe.

In summary, the recommended carbohydrates are those of legumes:

  • beans,
  • Peas
  • chickpeas
  • Beans
  • lentils.

Those to be consumed in moderation (and if they are wholemeal it is better) are instead:

  • dough
  • rice,
  • bread
  • barley
  • spelt
  • rye.

To further counteract the glucose peak and therefore lower the glycemic index, it is also advisable to increase the number of meals per day, reducing their portions and total caloric intake.

Dietary fiber

Vegetables and legumes are valuable sources of fiber. In addition to regulating the intestines, dietary fibers slow down the absorption of fats and the recommended daily dose is 30 g/day.

Green light therefore to vegetables (cooked and raw) and legumes , which however have the double advantage of being low in calories and, as mentioned, of containing slow-absorbing carbohydrates.

Olive oil or butter?

Or rather: unsaturated fat or saturated fat?

Extra virgin olive oil and, in general, all foods containing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are much better.

The saturated fats contained in foods of animal origin, in fact, increase triglyceride levels. On the contrary, the unsaturated fats typical of vegetable origin have the opposite action.

It is therefore preferable to reduce the consumption of foods rich in these “bad lipids” or hydrogenated fats (such as certain types of cheese or cuts of meat, sausages, fast-food products, packaged snacks or fried foods) to make room for vegetable oils (such as canola, flax and sunflower) and nuts (such as walnuts and almonds.

in : in fact, it seems that sugars play (so pay attention also to drinks).

Stop alcohol and smoking

Whether it’s wine or beer (not to mention spirits!), it doesn’t matter: alcohol is off limits. Those who have “unbalanced” triglyceride values must reduce them significantly, indeed, even better if they eliminate them completely.

Alcohol, in fact, stimulates the production of triglycerides massively. And that’s not all: since it has been proven that those who abuse wine & Co. damage the liver in the long run, it is advisable to reduce their intake to a minimum.

The same goes for smoking too. Substances such as nicotine and carbon monoxide (two of its main components in smoking) are able to cause a significant increase in in triglyceride levels in the blood , because they reduce the values of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) while increasing those of “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol).

Fish and omega-3s

The essential fatty acids of the omega-3 family contained above all in fish are true friends of our heart. On the one hand, in fact, they lower the level of triglycerides , on the other they have an Antithrombotic Action similar to that of some drugs. Furthermore, they help to contain the imbalances induced by high blood glucose values and to protect us from metabolic pathologies .

In detail, foods particularly rich in EPA and DHA are for example:

  • Sardines,
  • mackerel,
  • salmon,
  • Herring
  • tuna,
  • seaweed.

While alpha linoleic acid, less active as a precursor, is mainly found in products of vegetable origin, in some seeds or in soybean and flaxseed oils.

Finally, in Finally, in addition to controlling triglyceride levels, omega-3s normalize the heart rate in some subjects , i.e. they are valid antiarrhythmics.


Consuming foods rich in antioxidants protects against oxidative stress induced by free radicals, especially pronounced in the case of metabolic syndrome.

Among the antioxidant vitamins we find:

  • vitamin and provitamin A , contained in red/orange fruit and vegetables (apricots, peaches, melons, peppers, tomatoes, etc.), shellfish, milk, egg yolks and some cheeses (the latter to be consumed in moderation to avoid unwanted rise in cholesterol)
  • vitamin C , found in citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers, lettuce etc.
  • vitamin E, contained in wheat or corn germ, sesame, avocado, etc.

In addition to vitamins, Polyphenols (simple phenols, flavonoids, tannins) also have antioxidant capacity and are especially rich in them:

  • some types of fruit such as citrus fruits, pomegranates, grapes, berries, cherries;
  • oilseeds;
  • legumes;
  • Whole grains.

Physical activity

There is not only attention to diet, if you want to lower the level of triglycerides. You also need to exercise.

It has been proven that regular activity , exercised at least three times a week, helps to normalize the levels of these fats in the blood, since they represent the source of energy needed by the muscles to produce movement.

In most cases, it has been shown that it is sufficient to follow an aerobic exercise program (such as jogging, walking, cycling, swimming) three times a week.

You don’t need hours and hours of activity, just 35-40 minutes is enough.


Not everyone with high triglycerides needs to take medication. The choice, evaluated on a case-by-case basis, is up to the doctor. The drugs used in these cases are:

  • statins (such as atorvastatin): although they are mainly indicated for reducing cholesterol levels, they are also useful for mild hypertriglyceridemia;
  • fibrates : prescribed in the most serious cases of hypertriglyceridemia, but also effective in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL);
  • nicotinic acid derivatives : they reduce the plasma levels of triglycerides and cholesterol by inhibiting their synthesis;
  • bile acid sequestrants : indicated only in case of resistance to statins and associated with fibrates;
  • omega-3 fatty acid compounds.

In milder cases or in combination with drug therapy, some benefits can also derive from natural remedies, which must also be evaluated together with the doctor or pharmacist.

In fact, the diet and lifestyle measures listed above can also be associated with different types of supplements based, for example, on soluble fibres, omega-3s, vegetable oils, vitamin or polyphenolic antioxidants, phytosterols.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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