When High Triglycerides Run in Your Family

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on April 27, 2023
3 min read

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

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

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

Having high triglycerides can signal a higher risk for heart attack or stroke. The good news is that you can do a lot to manage that risk.

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.

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 tips on reaching 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.