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A healthy lifestyle can reduce your triglyceride levels.

A healthy lifestyle can reduce your triglyceride levels.
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5-minute read

Key facts

  • Triglycerides are the main type of fat in your body, and are measured together with cholesterol by a blood test.
  • Adults should have triglycerides checked every 5 years.
  • High triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. They may also be linked to being overweight or eating foods that are high in fat and sugar.
  • You can lower your triglycerides by including healthy fats in your diet, cutting back on sugary foods and alcohol, getting regular exercise and losing excess weight.
  • If your doctor has prescribed medicines for high triglycerides, be sure to take them as directed.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. When you eat, your body converts unused energy from food into triglycerides, which is stored in your fat cells. If you usually eat more kilojoules than you use, you may have high triglyceride levels.

Triglycerides are usually measured as part of a cholesterol blood test.

How are triglycerides connected to cholesterol?

Cholesterol is another type of fatty substance. It has many uses in your body, including producing hormones, building cells and helping you digest food.

There are good and bad types of cholesterol. 'Bad' cholesterol is known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL. It can stick to the sides of your blood vessels and block them. 'Good' cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein or HDL. It transports the bad cholesterol away from your blood vessels to your liver, which gets rid of it.

If you have a high level of triglycerides together with a high LDL level or a low HDL level, you have a higher risk of fat building up and blocking your blood vessels. This increases your risk of having a heart attack or a stroke.

Why do I have high triglycerides?

Being overweight and overeating, especially foods high in fat and sugar, are common causes of high triglycerides.

Other causes include:

  • drinking too much alcohol
  • diabetes, especially if your blood sugar is not well controlled
  • not eating enough food containing omega-3 fat
  • some medicines
  • kidney disease
  • low level of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)

What can happen to me if I have high triglycerides?

High triglycerides can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

A high triglyceride level is one of the signs of metabolic syndrome. This is a collection of health conditions that increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

An extremely high triglyceride level can cause inflammation of the pancreas, the organ in your abdomen that produces insulin.

When should I get my triglyceride levels checked?

If you are aged 45 years or older, you should have your cholesterol and triglycerides checked every 5 years. Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people should start regular triglyceride checks from age 35.

The level of triglycerides in your blood is higher after you eat, so you will need to fast for 9 to 12 hours before the test.

Talk to your doctor about your results and what to do if your levels are high.

ARE YOU AT RISK? — Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease? Use our Risk Checker to find out.

How can I lower my triglycerides?

Here are some things you can do to reduce your triglyceride levels:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and healthy proteins (especially fish) to lower your cholesterol and keep your heart healthy.
  • Include healthy fats in your diet and choose these instead of unhealthy fats.
  • Cut back on sweet drinks and foods made from sugar and white flour.
  • Cut back on alcohol.
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar level is well controlled.
  • Ask your doctor about a referral to a dietitian. They can give you advice about which foods are right for you. Check the healthdirect's Service Finder to find a dietitian in your area.

Depending on your blood tests results, your doctor may also prescribe cholesterol-lowering medicine. They may also recommend that you take a fish oil supplement.

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Last reviewed: June 2022

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