Triglycerides are a type of fat in your blood. They are usually measured along with cholesterol when you have a cholesterol blood test. If you have a high triglyceride level, talk with your doctor about what to do. There are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your triglycerides.
When you eat, your body converts unused energy from food into triglycerides, which is stored in your fat cells. Between meals, your body releases energy from triglycerides. If you usually eat more kilojoules than you use, you may have high triglycerides.
Triglycerides and cholesterol
Your doctor will usually check for high triglycerides as part of a cholesterol test.
Cholesterol is another type of fat. It has many uses in the body, including producing hormones and building cells.
There are good and bad types of cholesterol. Too much 'bad' cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein or LDL) can block your blood vessels, which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
High triglycerides can increase your risk of a stroke, heart attack and heart disease. High triglycerides may be a sign of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of conditions such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
An extremely high triglyceride level can cause inflammation of the pancreas, which is the organ in your tummy that produces insulin.
If you are aged 45 or older, you should have your triglycerides checked regularly.
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What causes high triglycerides
Overeating, especially foods high in fat and kilojoules, and lack of exercise are common causes of high triglycerides. Other causes include:
- drinking too much alcohol
- some medications
- kidney or liver disease
- low level of thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)
- other disorders
High triglycerides treatment
Ask your doctor what your triglyceride levels should be. If your triglycerides are high, talk with your doctor about what to do.
Things you can do to reduce your triglyceride levels include:
- talking with your doctor about your triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- eating fresh foods, including a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, plain meat, poultry and fish, unflavoured reduced fat dairy and plain unsalted nuts and legumes. Choose healthier oils for cooking and use avocado, nut butters or tahini instead of butter
- losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- exercising regularly, if you are not doing so already
- cutting back on alcohol, if you drink
- reducing sugary drinks and refined starchy foods, such as foods made from white flour
For more information, call the Heart Foundation's Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.
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Last reviewed: February 2020