A person’s triglyceride levels indicate how much of these fats are in the person’s blood. Someone can find out their levels with a simple blood test.
Normal triglyceride levels may vary based on age and other factors.
Triglyceride levels may indicate overall health, and higher levels may increase the risk of health issues. Healthy diet and lifestyle choices can help keep triglyceride levels normal.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body.
The body makes triglycerides from the food a person eats. When the body does not need to use all the calories from a meal immediately, it converts the leftover food, especially carbohydrates, into triglycerides.
The body can store these triglycerides for later use between meals when it needs more energy.
A person’s triglyceride levels go up naturally after a meal. Normal, desirable triglyceride levels are below 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl).
Fasting causes the triglyceride levels from food to go down.
Because of this, fasting triglyceride levels are naturally lower. The
On the other hand, regularly eating more calories than the body can use may lead to higher levels of triglycerides. Other things affect this number as well.
High triglycerides often do not cause any symptoms on their own, so a person may not know if they have high levels.
Checking triglyceride levels is straightforward and only requires a simple blood test.
Doctors may ask the person to fast for 8–12 hours before the test to check for fasting triglyceride levels. These may help give a better picture of a person’s levels overall.
The results are generally measured as milligrams of triglycerides per decileter of blood, or mg/dl.
While this may vary slightly, in general, there are four ranges of blood triglyceride levels for adults. In this case, “normal” means the range people should aim for to stay healthy.
- Normal: under 150 mg/dl
- Borderline high: 151–199 mg/dl
- High: over 200 mg/dl
- Very high: over 500 mg/dl
Numbers may vary based on age and other risk factors a person may have.
Children and teenagers
Children may have slightly lower triglyceride levels than adults. Normal fasting triglyceride levels for children under the age of 10 are less than 75 mg/dl.
The ranges for children under 10 are:
- Normal: under 75 mg/dl
- Borderline high: 75–99 mg/dl
- High: over 100 mg/dl
The ranges for children and teenagers ages 10–19 are slightly higher:
- Normal: under 90 mg/dl
- Borderline high: 90–129 mg/dl
- High: over 130 mg/dl
The American Heart Association note that a number of factors may contribute to higher triglyceride levels, including:
- having excess weight or obesity
- alcohol consumption
- excess sugar intake, especially from processed foods with added sugars
- high intake of saturated fats
- physical inactivity
- metabolic syndrome
- insulin resistance
- thyroid conditions, including hypothyroidism
- chronic kidney disease
- inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
Some medications may also alter the body’s triglyceride levels. These may include:
- immunosuppressant drugs
Before a person takes medication for high triglyceride levels, they should talk to a healthcare provider about proper use and potential side effects.
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is often the first line of treatment doctors recommend to lower triglyceride levels and keep them in the normal range.
Diet is an important factor in maintaining normal triglyceride levels.
In general, it is important to only eat the energy the body will use that day and avoid excess calories. A report posted to the journal Circulation lists some dietary tips for managing triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It recommends eating a diet that emphasizes:
- whole grains
- lean, healthful protein sources, such as low-fat poultry, low-fat dairy, seafood, and nuts
- nontropical vegetable oils, such as olive oil
Additionally, it is important to limit the intake of:
Exercise is an important aspect of health for everyone and helps a person maintain a healthy weight. It may also help keep triglyceride levels low. Exercise promotes burning calories, which may help the body use extra triglycerides for energy.
The report in Circulation notes that, in general, adults should aim for at least three to four sessions of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week. Each session should last at least 40 minutes.
Supplements and medications
In some cases, such as if a person needs to get their triglyceride levels down quickly or does not respond to diet and exercise, doctors may prescribe supplements or medications to help lower triglyceride levels. These may include:
- fish oil
It is possible that supplements or medications that lower triglycerides could interact with other medications a person is taking.
Therefore, as with medications, take supplements under the direct guidance of a healthcare provider.
While high triglyceride levels typically do not cause symptoms, anyone concerned they may have high triglyceride or cholesterol levels should contact their doctor.
A doctor would usually measure triglyceride and cholesterol levels at the same time as high levels of either may contribute to heart conditions.
Doctors may recommend drug therapies in some cases. This may happen if a person has dangerously high triglyceride levels that need to come down quickly or if their levels do not respond to lifestyle and dietary changes.
Triglyceride levels are an important marker for heart health and overall health. Keeping triglyceride levels in a normal range may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other disorders.
Doctors may recommend medications for people in some high-risk cases.
However, most people can reduce their triglyceride levels by consuming a healthy diet and exercising regularly.