Understand your Triglycerides Blood Test Results…

This page helps you to understand blood test results for triglycerides and gives you the reference range to determine if your lab test results mean that you have high, low or normal triglycerides levels. 

We outline the risk factors associated with raised triglycerides.

Reference Ranges for Triglycerides:

Measurement unit Metric Optimal Borderline Risk
US Conventional Units mg/dl <=149 150-199 >=200
Standard International Units mmol/L <=1.8 1.9-2.3 >=2.4
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What are Triglycerides

Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat, your body converts any calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells.

High triglyceride levels are associated with several factors, including being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, being sedentary and elevated blood sugar levels [5].

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Function of Triglycerides

Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood, and as such have separate functions in the body.

Triglycerides store unused calories and provide your body with energy [8].

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Risk factors associated with Triglycerides

Although it’s unclear how, high triglycerides can contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (atherosclerosis) which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Extremely high triglycerides (above 1000 mg/dL (11.29 mmol/L)) can also cause acute pancreatitis.

High triglycerides are often a sign of other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke as well, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Sometimes high triglycerides are a sign of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism), liver or kidney disease, or rare genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy. High triglycerides could also be a side effect of taking medications such as beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics or steroids [8].

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Notable variations by demographic group

In young adulthood males tend to have higher triglycerides.  However, triglyceride levels in women tend to increase post menopause and on average women have higher levels of triglycerides from age 50 onwards [9].

During the reproductive years, triglyceride levels among women vary cyclically with the menstrual cycle; the highest triglyceride levels are generally seen at midcycle [10].

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Diet to improve Triglycerides

  • Cut back on calories. Extra calories are converted to triglycerides and stored as fat. Reducing your calories will reduce triglycerides [8].
  • Avoid sugary and refined foods. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour, can increase triglycerides [8].
  • Choose healthier fats. Trade saturated fat found in meats for healthier monounsaturated fat found in plants, such as olives and nuts. Substitute fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as mackerel and salmon for red meat [8].
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar and has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglyceride levels [8].
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Supplements for Triglycerides

  • Fish oils. Also known as omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements can help lower your triglycerides.
  • Niacin. Niacin, sometimes called nicotinic acid, can lower your triglycerides and your “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). It is typically reserved for people who have triglyceride levels over 500 mg/dL (5.7 mmol/L) [8].
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Exercise to improve Triglycerides

Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week.  Regular exercise can lower triglycerides and boost “good” cholesterol.  If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 pounds can help lower your triglycerides [8].

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Sleep for Triglycerides

Sleep duration between 6-8 hours are correlated with lower triglyceride levels.  High triglycerides are associated with both too little and too much sleep [8].