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HealthInfo Canterbury

High triglycerides

What are high triglycerides?

FDP olive oil Triglycerides are type of fat (also called a lipid) that stores energy in your body, mainly in your fat cells. Everyone also has triglycerides in their blood (called lipoproteins), but some people have too many.

People with high triglycerides in their blood can have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. High triglycerides are often linked with obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure (also called hypertension). Very high triglycerides can cause an inflamed pancreas (called pancreatitis), which is an emergency. People with pancreatitis urgently need hospital treatment.

What about triglycerides and food?

Any fat you eat – whether it's saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated – adds to your triglyceride levels. The amount of sugar you eat and alcohol you drink also has a strong effect. Our triglycerides rise after meals, so we usually measure them before you eat. The measurement we use is millimoles per litre, usually written as mmol/L. It's best to have a level under 1.7 mmol/L.

Very high triglycerides

Very high triglycerides (above 5 mmol/L) aren't common. People with this problem have genes that stop them from moving triglycerides out of their blood. However, poor diet, too much alcohol, obesity and medical problems such as diabetes or thyroid disease can also play a part.

People with extremely high triglycerides (above 10 mmol/L) are at high risk of developing pancreatitis. They urgently need to get their triglycerides down. They also need special blood tests to find out what is causing the problem, and may need to take medication to lower their levels. It's also important they make changes in their diet and lifestyle.

High triglycerides

High triglycerides (from 1.7 to 5 mmol/L) can be related to obesity, lack of exercise, impaired glucose tolerance (also called prediabetes) or diabetes, as well as genetics.

On the next page: How can I lower my triglyceride levels?

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical nurse specialist, Department of Preventive Cardiology, Canterbury DHB. November 2014.

See also:

High cholesterol

Understanding your cholesterol results


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