Are your triglycerides high?
Before knowing high triglyceride symptoms, you need to know what triglycerides are. Simply speaking, triglycerides are fats. Triglycerides are called “fat” when they are solid and called “oil” when they are liquid. Here are some household examples of triglycerides: animal fat, olive oil, corn oil, butter, whale oil, fish oil, and belly fat.
To understand basic triglyceride structure and triglyceride function, please read this detailed article on triglycerides meaning.
In this article, we will focus on triglyceride levels, triglycerides normal range, and high triglyceride symptoms, causes and treatment.
Measurement of triglyceride levels
Triglyceride levels are usually measured when you get your cholesterol checked. Triglyceride levels are a part of a panel of blood tests called “Lipid Profile”. The triglycerides test is usually done in the morning before breakfast. “Fasting lipid profile” is the proper name of the panel of blood tests that includes triglycerides test.
In the United States triglyceride levels are measure in milligrams per deciliter or mg/dl.
Triglycerides level chart
Triglycerides normal range
What is the normal range for triglycerides?
Fasting triglyceride levels of less than 150mg/dl are considered normal triglyceride levels by most medical societies. As you may have noticed, there is no low number defined in the triglycerides normal range.
There is not a low cutoff in the triglycerides normal range because lower triglyceride levels are considered more optimal.
However, there are some rare situations that can cause abnormally low triglycerides. Although not strictly defined in the medical literature, triglyceride levels of less than 50mg/dl or 25mg/dl are considered low triglycerides. Low triglycerides do not cause any problems by themselves. However, if your triglyceride levels come back too low, you need to think about other problems that may cause low triglycerides. For example, Low triglycerides may be a sign of malnutrition, anorexia, malabsorption, wasting from cancer, or very overactive thyroid.
What do high triglycerides do? What happens when your triglycerides are high? Read on.
Borderline high triglycerides symptoms
Triglyceride levels between 150mg/dl to 199mg/dl is considered borderline high triglyceride levels. Borderline high triglyceride levels do not usually cause any symptoms and they do not require any specific treatment. People with borderline high triglycerides that have cardiovascular risk factors should first focus on how to increase HDL cholesterol (normal hdl levels >40mg/dl, >60mg/dl desirable for protection against heart disease) and decrease LDL cholesterol before thinking about lowering triglycerides. Your cholesterol HDL ratio and non HDL cholesterol levels are more important than borderline high triglycerides.
Moderate high triglycerides symptoms
Triglyceride levels between 200mg/dl to 499mg/dl are considered moderate high triglyceride levels. Moderate high triglycerides may not cause any symptoms but you may see associated symptoms of other related conditions in people with moderate high triglycerides.
Symptoms associated with moderate high triglycerides
- Increased abdominal girth
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Lack of exercise
- Alcohol use
- Type 2 Diabetes symptoms
- Metabolic syndrome symptoms
Very high triglycerides symptoms: what does it mean if your triglycerides are over 500
Triglyceride levels between 500mg/dl to 999mg/dl are considered very high triglyceride levels. Very high triglycerides symptoms include symptoms of cardiovascular disease because very high triglycerides can directly lead to cardiovascular problems.
Very high triglycerides may not directly cause symptoms but the following conditions should make you think about the possibility of very high triglycerides :
- Symptoms of cardiovascular disease at a young age
- Central obesity: Excessive abdominal fat around your abdomen
- Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
- Poor unhealthy diet high in simple processed carbs and sugary drinks
- Family members with very high triglycerides
- Poorly controlled diabetes symptoms
- Symptoms of excess cortisol hormone such as Cushing’s syndrome
- Symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (menstrual problems, hair loss, depression, skin tags, facial hair in women )
- Symptoms of severe protein loss in urine, also called nephrotic syndrome (severe body swelling, bloating, puffy eyes)
- Fatty liver
Extremely high triglycerides symptoms (high triglycerides over 1000)
Triglyceride levels higher than 1000mg/dl are considered extremely high triglyceride levels. Extremely high triglycerides symptoms include all the symptoms associated with very high triglycerides. In addition, extremely high triglycerides can cause pancreatitis.
Extremely high triglycerides symptoms from pancreatitis:
- Recurrent pancreatitis pain (Band-like pain in the mid abdomen that can be extremely painful after eating)
- Recurrent nausea and vomiting
- Milky white appearance of blood
Extremely high triglycerides can actually change the color and appearance of the blood in your veins. For example, triglyceride levels of 2000mg/dl mean that you have 2 grams of triglycerides in 100ml of blood. When you convert it to regular US customary units of measurement, it comes to about a teaspoonful of triglycerides in a cup of blood. You can imagine melting a teaspoonful of butter and pouring it into a cup of hot water. That is enough butter to change the color and consistency of the water.
People with extremely high triglycerides levels have enough fat in their blood to make it look milky white.
Can high triglycerides cause stomach pain?
High triglycerides by itself does not cause stomach pain but high triglycerides over 1000 greatly increases your risks of pancreatitis. If you have extremely high triglycerides and you have stomach pain, you need to think about acute pancreatitis and seek medical help right away.
High triglycerides causes: what increases triglycerides?
Here are some of the common high triglycerides causes:
- Genetics: Family history of high triglycerides
- Uncontrolled Diabetes
- Low thyroid hormone
- Certain medications
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating too much sugar and other proceeded food with carbohydrates
- Sedentary lifestyle and obesity
Among the high triglycerides causes listed above, the only non-modifiable cause is genetics. You can’t change your genetic composition but you can modify all other high triglycerides causes. If your diabetes is uncontrolled, you need to lower your blood sugars to prevent high triglycerides. You need to get your thyroid hormone tested and take thyroid medications if you have low thyroid hormones.You need to have all your medications reviewed by your doctor or a pharmacist to make sure they are not causing your high triglycerides. You need to lower your alcohol consumption and eat less sugar and carbohydrates. You also need to modify your lifestyle, lose weight and exercise regularly.
What causes high triglycerides but normal cholesterol?
Although both triglycerides and cholesterol are usually checked at the same time and reported in the same panel of blood tests, they are regulated differently in your body. High cholesterol doesn’t necessarily cause high triglycerides and similarly high triglycerides does not necessary cause high cholesterol. Although high cholesterol and high triglycerides share similar causes, certain things affect triglycerides more than they affect cholesterol. That is why it is not uncommon to see high triglycerides but normal cholesterol.
The most common cause of high triglycerides nut normal cholesterol is heavy alcohol use. Alcohol affects triglycerides level significantly but it does not seem to worsen your cholesterol profile that much. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption seems to have some beneficial effects on your cholesterol profile. Alcohol actually increases your HDL which is the good cholesterol. If you drink heavily and have high triglycerides but normal cholesterol, it may have been caused by your alcohol consumption.
Similarly, obesity and sedentary lifestyle have much greater effects on your triglycerides than your cholesterol.
High triglycerides treatment
How to lower triglycerides without medicine? How to reduce triglycerides naturally?
Unlike people with high LDL cholesterol, most people with high triglycerides can lower triglycerides without medicine. There are some specific situations that require treatment of high triglycerides with medicine. In all other cases, lifestyle changes may be enough to lower triglycerides without medicine.
Here are the 4 important ways to lower triglycerides without medicine:
- Lose weight: Losing weight is one of the most effective ways to lower triglycerides without medicine
- Exercise: Exercise directly lowers triglycerides. Even moderate exercise and increase in physical activity can be beneficial. In addition to lowering triglycerides, physical activity also directly reduces your risk of heart attacks
- Reduce alcohol intake
- Start triglycerides diet
Triglycerides and alcohol
Alcohol directly raises your blood triglyceride levels. Even after a small drink of alcohol, your triglyceride levels quickly go higher. However, this effect is reversible and short lived if you only drink small amount of alcohol occasionally. If you drink alcohol heavily on a regular basis, your triglyceride levels remain persistently elevated. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your fasting blood triglyceride levels will be. If you want to lower your triglycerides without medicine, you need to cut down on your drinking.
High triglycerides diet
The food you eat directly influences your triglyceride levels. Eating foods high in simple carbohydrates( the kind of carbohydrate present in processed food such as corn syrup, candy, cakes, cookies) and sugary drinks are the main causes of high triglycerides in most adults in the United States.
Most people think that eating triglycerides(fats) is the main reason for high triglycerides. That is a myth. It’s not fat that raises fat levels in your blood, it’s sugar. In fact, healthy diet with plenty of good natural fat is the best kind of food to eat to lower triglycerides.
High triglycerides foods to avoid (in alphabetical order)
- Boxed Juices
- Caramel corn
- Chocolate brownie
- French fries
- Frosted Doughnuts
- Frosted flakes
- Funnel cakes
- Jelly bean
- Potato chips
- Rice Krispies
- Sugar cookies
- Sugary Cupcakes
- Sugary Danish
- Sugary soft drinks
- Sweet cappuccino
- Sweet iced tea
- Sweet low fat yogurt
- Sweet Muffins
Foods to eat to lower triglycerides, list of foods that lower triglycerides
High fat diet ,in which people replaced most of the calories from sugar with fat ,actually resulted in significant lowering of triglyceride levels. In fact, all types of fat (even the unhealthy saturated fat) lowered triglycerides when fat was used to replace sugar from the diet. However, unhealthy fat may raise LDL cholesterol levels. Therefore, the best triglycerides diet is a diet rich in natural healthy fats. A diet rich in healthy unsaturated natural fats is a good diet for high cholesterol & triglycerides.
A sample triglycerides diet food list would be fatty fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, unsaturated vegetable oils and similar healthy fats.
Here is a list of foods that lower triglycerides in alphabetical order:
- Almond butter
- Brazil nuts
- Cashew butter
- Chia seeds
- Grape-seed oil
- Greek Yogurt
- Hemp oil
- Olive oil
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
How to lower triglycerides quickly without medicine?
The best way to quickly reduce triglyceride levels is to combine all the above mentioned lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes enhance each other and the combined effect can be very significant. Reducing alcohol helps lower calorie intake and helps with weight loss. Healthy high fat low sugar diet makes you feel good and you are more likely to exercise. The combined effect of exercise, less alcohol and good food leads to significant weight loss. When you combine weight loss with healthy food, good exercise and less alcohol, you will quickly achieve your goal of reducing triglycerides.
Triglycerides over 500 treatment
Although many people with triglycerides can be treated without medications, people with triglycerides over 500 may need medications. Unless you have high triglycerides over 1000mg/dl, statins are the preferred medications for high triglycerides. Statins are the main medications found to beneficials for people with high levels of bad cholesterol. Statins primarily lower bad cholesterol but also have some triglyceride lowering effects. Despite their limited efficacy in lowering triglycerides, they are still the number one class of medications recommended for high triglycerides because they decrease your risks of heart attacks and strokes.
Treatment of high triglycerides over 1000mg/dl requires individualized careful evaluation by your doctor to find out the reason for such high cholesterol.