What High Triglycerides Can Do to You

Medically Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on April 12, 2021

When your triglyceride levels are too high, you may not have symptoms. It's a "silent" problem with big implications, such as a four-fold increase in the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke.

A simple blood test is all it takes to check your triglyceride levels. If they're too high, you can get them back under control, often by changing your daily habits.

If you already know that your triglyceride levels are too high, the actions you take now might even save your life.

Triglycerides and Blood Sugar

Having high triglycerides could be a sign that you’re becoming insulin-resistant, which means your body isn’t using insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar) properly.

When insulin doesn’t do its job, glucose can't get into your cells. That raises your blood sugar levels, which can lead to pre-diabetes and, eventually, type 2 diabetes.

Having diabetes makes you much more likely to have a heart attack and other heart problems, in addition to the risk from your high triglycerides.

Untreated diabetes is a major health threat. To manage it well, you may need to track everything you eat, test your blood sugar, exercise, lose extra weight, take medication as directed, and keep up with your medical appointments.

Many people don't know that they have diabetes. Your doctor should check on whether you do, and if so, help you get both your diabetes and your triglycerides under control.

Triglycerides and the Liver

High triglyceride levels can be a clue that you have fatty liver disease. Poor eating habits lead not only to high levels of fat in the bloodstream (triglycerides) but increased storage of fat throughout the body, including in the liver. Elevations in liver function tests (like ALT and AST) can indicate that fatty liver is present. Fatty liver usually does not cause symptoms, but unless reversed, fatty liver can lead to permanent liver damage and cirrhosis.

Triglycerides and the Pancreas

If your triglyceride levels are “very high” -- above 500 mg/dL -- you are more likely to get inflammation in your pancreas.

Inflammation of the pancreas (a condition which doctors call pancreatitis) can cause permanent tissue damage. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, which may be severe.

Treatments for High Triglyceride Levels

If you have high triglycerides, your doctor's treatment should include healthy eating and exercise. Avoiding processed and sugary foods is paramount; these dietary changes alone can have a tremendous impact on your triglyceride levels. Your doctor may also recommend taking omega 3 fatty acid supplements. 

Begin today. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider about exactly what you need to do to start living a healthy lifestyle to lower triglycerides, help prevent a heart attack or stroke, avoid or manage diabetes, and reduce your chances of developing liver disease and pancreatitis.


Show Sources


Talayero, B. Current Cardiology Reports, December 2011.

Cleveland Clinic: "Heart and Vascular Health & Prevention."

American Heart Association: "Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions;" "Triglycerides;" and "Heart Attack Recovery FAQs."

University of Maryland Medical Center: "Pancreatitis."

American Liver Foundation: "Newly Diagnosed Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease."

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