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When High Triglycerides Run in Your Family

If your parents had high triglycerides, you're more likely to have it, too.

Some people have high triglycerides because they inherited a genetic predisposition to it from their parents. One common inherited condition is called familial hypertriglyceridemia.

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You can also have high triglycerides for other reasons, especially if you're overweight and aren't physically active.

Having high triglycerides can make you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that you can do a lot to manage that risk.

3 Questions to Ask

Talk to your parents about your family's medical history. Ask them these three questions:

  1.  Did anyone in your family have high triglycerides?
  2. Was anyone in the family diagnosed with heart disease before age 50?
  3. Did anyone in your family have a heart attack or stroke before age 50?

Tell your doctor the answers to those questions. That information could hold clues about your chances of having high triglycerides caused by an inherited disorder. Knowing that will help your doctor determine whether you need treatment.  

Your doctor will ask you to take a blood test, after fasting, to check your blood's triglyceride level. 

People who inherit a tendency to have high triglycerides may have higher than normal triglyceride levels starting as early as puberty. 

6 Steps to Start Lowering Your Triglycerides

You can work on lowering your triglyceride numbers through your daily habits and medication, if necessary.

These simple steps may help:

  1. Lose extra weight. If you're overweight, work with your doctor to reach and keep a healthier weight. This doesn't mean you have to try to lose an unrealistic amount of weight. Losing a smaller amount than your ideal could still make a difference. Ask your doctor what your goal should be, and ask for their support on how to reach that goal.
  2. Don't smoke. Smoking cigarettes can raise your triglyceride levels.
  3. Limit alcohol. If you drink too much alcohol, your triglyceride levels may rise. In some people, even small amounts of alcohol may raise triglyceride levels.
  4. Cut back on sugar in desserts, drinks, and other foods.
  5. Get moving. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days.
  6. Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are fats your body needs. They're found in certain fish, including salmon, herring, albacore tuna, and sardines. Plant sources include walnuts and flaxseed.

Also, your doctor should check on whether you have any other conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, that you need to treat, or whether any medications (such as some birth control pills) are affecting your triglyceride levels. 

If lifestyle changes don't lower your triglyceride levels enough, your doctor may consider prescribing fibrates, niacin, omega-3 fatty acids, and statins to help lower your high triglycerides. However, you'll still need to keep up with diet and exercise to manage your triglyceride levels.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 17, 2012

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Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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