The Trouble with Triglycerides
Manage high triglycerides with tips from the pros.
Meet the Metabolic Syndrome
High triglycerides are often associated with a group of other conditions that together are called the “metabolic syndrome” -- a group of risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These include:
Obesity, especially excessive fat tissue in and around the abdomen
High blood pressure
- Increased blood sugars (pre-diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance )
- High levels of inflammatory proteins in the blood
High triglycerides can also mean low levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL) -- the “good” cholesterol.” “We don’t know how HDL protects you from things like heart disease and diabetes, but we know it does,” Ginsburg says. “And high triglycerides mean lower HDL.”
At the same time, they can form a sort of “‘combination package” with low-density lipoproteins —LDL, or the “bad” cholesterol — leading to more plaque formation in the arteries of your heart and further elevating your risk of heart disease.
Know Your Levels
What should your triglyceride levels be? Normal triglycerides are 150 or below. Any level that is consistently higher than that is considered to be a problem:
- Borderline High: 150 - 199
- High: 200 - 499
- Very High: 500
So what can you do if your triglycerides are hitting the heights? One answer is extremely simple and, for many people, extremely challenging: losing weight through diet and exercise.
“If everybody lost 10% of their body weight and started exercising for half an hour, three or four times a week, it would take care of almost half the problem,” says Henry N. Ginsberg, M.D., Irving Professor of Medicine and Director of the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “Yes, there is a genetic predisposition involved, but whatever the genetics are, it’s made much worse by being overweight.”
What should you eat? Well, in some ways whatdoesn’t matter as much as how much.
“I don’t care if you’re eating 100% protein or 100% carbohydrates, if you eat more than you burn, you’re going to make triglycerides,” Ginsberg says. “But if you’re eating 100% fat, the body doesn’t even have to work that hard to do it.”