The combination of high triglycerides and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol can arise from physical inactivity, drinking too much alcohol, and obesity. It can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

HDL is a form of cholesterol that carries it back into the liver, removing it from the body. It is known as “good” cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as “bad” cholesterol. Triglycerides are a different type of fat altogether.

This article explains what can happen when an individual has high triglycerides and low HDL levels. It also outlines the possible causes and lists the normal levels of triglycerides, HDL, and LDL.

Finally, it discusses how to manage high triglycerides and low HDL.

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Many causes and risk factors exist for low HDL and high triglycerides as separate conditions. However, they also have some common causes, including:

Read about the symptoms of high triglycerides.

Scientists have determined the normal blood lipid levels for the average adult. Measurements are in milligrams (mg) per deciliter (dL) of blood (mg/dL). According to a 2023 review, these are healthy or optimal blood lipid levels:

  • Triglycerides: Below 150 mg/dL
  • HDL: Between 40 and 60 mg/dL
  • LDL: Less than 100 mg/dL

Learn more about triglyceride levels.

The combination of high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol levels links to several health problems, including:

Cardiovascular disease or atherosclerosis

According to a 2021 study of people with angina, individuals with high triglycerides and low HDL have an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, which can cause heart attacks.

Coronary heart disease is a serious condition that affects the arteries supplying blood to the heart. In people with coronary heart disease, these arteries are either narrower than they should be or plaque buildups have partially blocked them. This can lead to atherosclerosis, which is a toughening of the arteries.

As the American Heart Association explains, the same combination can increase the risk of stroke.

High blood pressure

A 2021 paper explains that high total cholesterol levels correlate with high blood pressure (HBP).

HBP, or hypertension, happens when there is too much pressure in an individual’s blood vessels. Although it can be asymptomatic for many years, long-term and untreated HBP can lead to serious health problems, including kidney disease and heart failure.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is when too much fat builds up inside a person’s liver. In a healthy adult, the liver should contain little to no fat. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can cause weakness and abdominal pain.

Research suggests that high triglycerides and low HDL levels can contribute to developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Acute pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis happens when the pancreas suddenly becomes inflamed. It can lead to serious health problems, including breathing difficulties and kidney failure.

A 2018 review notes a strong connection between high triglyceride levels, or hypertriglyceridemia, and acute pancreatitis. The risk and severity of pancreatitis increases as a person’s triglyceride levels increase.

The following lifestyle modifications can help lower triglycerides and HDL:

Read about natural ways to lower cholesterol without medication.

Scientists have developed several medications to treat high triglycerides in the blood. These include:

For low HDL levels, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute details the following medications: Bile acid sequestrants and PCSK9 inhibitors. Bile acid sequestrants bind to bile acids, helping to remove cholesterol from the body. PCSK9 inhibitors work by inhibiting the PCSK9 protein, increasing the potential to clear LDL cholesterol from the blood.

Doctors can also prescribe statins for both conditions. These work by inhibiting an enzyme that contributes to cholesterol production in the liver.

Read about ways to increase HDL cholesterol levels.

High triglycerides and low HDL levels can occur for many reasons, including eating too much saturated fat, drinking too much alcohol, and being inactive. Diabetes, thyroid problems, and kidney disease link with high triglycerides and low HDL.

Stroke, heart attack, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease are possible complications.

Doctors recommend lifestyle modifications to help people improve their levels of HDL and triglycerides. These include eating a nutritious diet and being active. Medications, such as statins, can also help.