High Triglycerides - Treatment Overview

You can use diet and lifestyle changes to lower triglyceride levels.

Diet and lifestyle changes include:

You may also take medicines to lower triglyceride levels. Medicines may be used if you have risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD).

For more information on cholesterol treatment, see the topic High Cholesterol.

Initial treatment

Diet and lifestyle changes are the first steps you will take to lower triglyceride levels.

Diet and lifestyle changes include:

  • Losing weight and staying at a healthy weight.
  • Limiting the amount of carbohydrate and unhealthy fat that you eat.
  • Being more active.
  • Limiting alcohol.
  • Not smoking.
  • Keeping blood sugar in a target range if you have diabetes.

Eat a heart-healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods. Limit saturated fat and avoid trans fat. Limit sodium and sugar.

Eating fish or taking fish oil (omega-3 fatty acid) supplements may lower triglyceride levels. Eating at least 2 servings of fish each week is part of a heart-healthy diet. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.

To reduce carbohydrate in your diet, you may want to learn about the amount of carbohydrate in various foods.

Alcohol has a particularly strong effect on triglycerides. Regular, excessive use of alcohol or even a one-time drinking binge can cause a significant increase in triglycerides. Binge drinking can cause a spike in your triglycerides that may trigger pancreatitis. Your doctor will want you either to stop or to limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Before you increase your activity, check with your doctor to be sure it is safe. You may also want to talk with a dietitian to design a nutrition program that is right for you.

Your doctor will also look for anything else that might be causing your high triglycerides, such as hypothyroidism, poorly controlled diabetes, kidney disease, or medicines. Your doctor may adjust or stop any medicines that might raise your triglyceride level.

Continued

Ongoing treatment

If your triglycerides are still high after you make lifestyle changes, you may need to take medicine as well. Whether your doctor prescribes medicine for high triglycerides depends on more than just your triglyceride number. Your doctor will also look at your cholesterol levels and other risk factors (things that increase your risk) for heart disease before prescribing a medicine for high triglycerides.

If you have high cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease, you may need a combination of medicines that target the different types of cholesterol. The medicines that you might take are:

Statins are used to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Statins may also lower triglycerides. If you have both high LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, your doctor may first prescribe statins to lower your LDL and later prescribe a medicine to lower your triglycerides.

If your triglycerides are very high even after lifestyle changes, your doctor may first use medicine to lower your triglycerides to prevent damage to your pancreas.

Fibrates (fibric acid derivatives) should be used with caution by people who are also taking statins. There is a greater risk for a life-threatening muscle problem called rhabdomyolysis, which can lead to kidney failure. So it is important that your kidneys and liver are healthy before you take this combination of medicines. If you have any muscle problems or pain, report it immediately to your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

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