The Causes of High Triglycerides

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Hypertriglyceridemia is a condition that pertains to elevated triglyceride levels. Although high triglycerides do not appear to directly contribute to causing atherosclerosis, studies have shown that high triglyceride levels may increase your risk of having cardiovascular disease. Very high triglyceride levels may also place you at risk of having pancreatitis, a life-threatening condition that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed. Current guidelines recommend that your triglyceride levels should be below 150 mg/dL. 

High Triglycerides Causes and Risk Factors

There are many causes of high triglycerides, which could range from following a poor diet to inheriting the condition from a parent. The following factors below could place you at risk for having triglycerides — and ways you can fix these circumstances to improve your triglyceride levels:

  • Being overweight or obese. Studies have shown that losing between 5 and 10% of your total body weight can lower your triglyceride levels by up to 20%.
  • Genetic influences. Some conditions causing high triglyceride levels may be inherited, and are referred to as familial hypertriglyceridemias. In these cases, high triglyceride levels cannot be prevented. However, your healthcare provider can place you on medication that will help you to lower your high triglyceride levels.
  • Physical inactivity. Getting moderate exercise will help keep your heart healthy — and your triglyceride levels within a healthy range.
  • Certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. By getting these medical conditions under control — either through lifestyle modifications or medication — you can also help lower your triglyceride levels.
  • Consuming a diet high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. A lipid-lowering diet consisting of plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates can help keep your triglyceride levels in check.
  • Smoking cigarettes. Stopping smoking can not only lower your risk of developing high triglycerides — but it can also help prevent other medical conditions, such as heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer.
  • Taking certain medications, including estrogen, protease inhibitors, and corticosteroids. Many of these medications may be medically necessary, so your healthcare provider will monitor your lipid levels. He or she may need to adjust your doses if your triglycerides become too high.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Limiting the amount of alcohol that you consume can help keep your heart — and triglyceride levels — healthy. Studies have shown that alcohol can adversely affect your lipids in incremental amounts, so it is suggested that you limit your alcohol to one drink per day maximum if you are a woman, and a maximum of two drinks per day in men.

In most cases, making modifications to your lifestyle, as outlined above, may help to get your triglyceride levels back within a healthy range. However, in some cases, such as inherited high triglyceride levels, you may need to also take medications to lower them. Lipid-lowering drugs, — such as fibrates, fish oil, or statins — can help lower your triglycerides and may positively affect other areas of your lipid panel, too.

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