What are triglycerides?
They are a type of fat found in the human body. You may confuse them with cholesterol, but the key difference is that triglycerides are fats found in the blood, whereas cholesterol is a substance made by the liver. Triglycerides provide your body with energy by storing unused calories, whereas cholesterol is for building cells and certain hormones in your body. When we eat, any excess food that we don’t need as energy is converted into our triglycerides by our liver (technically speaking, it only does it with carbohydrates and protein, but let’s not get into the finer detail here).If you regularly eat more food that you can burn at that time - especially if it is sugar, refined carbohydrates or ultra-processed foods - you may have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia). The good news is, and therefore why we measure it, the same dietary and lifestyle changes you make to promote overall good health, can also help lower your triglyceride levels too.
At Health Results we use the following fasted (at least hours 8 to 12 hours after last meal) triglyceride readings as a guide:
Good = Less than 1.3 mmol/L
Normal = 1.3 to 1.69 mmol/L
Borderline = 1.7 to 1.99 mmol/L
High = 2 to 2.29 mmol/L
Very high = 2.3 mmol/L or above
What does mmol/L mean?
It is a measure that shows the concentration of something in a fluid. It simply means millimoles per litre. One mole of a substance is the molecular weight of that substance expressed in grams, and a millimole is a unit of measurement equal to one thousandth of a mole. In the United States they tend not to use mmol/L but milligrams per litre which is very different. If you ever need to convert them, a quick google search will provide lots of conversion charts.
Rather than getting caught up on what exactly a millimole means, we just need to understand that the mmol/L measurement is used for cholesterol, triglyceride and blood glucose levels, and it’s crucial not to get these measurements confused. 1.3mmol/L for triglyceride is good, but 1.3mml/L as blood sugar is dangerously low.
Do high triglycerides matter?
High triglycerides may indicate prediabetes or type 2 diabetes and can increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. Insulin resistance can also be caused by high triglycerides released from abdominal fat.
Although having high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia) can lead to several chronic illnesses, it rarely causes any symptoms. Therefore, it is important to periodically measure it.
Sometimes high triglycerides are a side effect of taking certain medications, such as:
- Beta blockers
Occasionally, certain medical conditions can cause high triglyceride levels, so we always recommend a visit to your GP to rule anything else out before adopting lifestyle changes to combat it.
How to lower triglycerides
Consistent with other beliefs at Health Results, getting your diet right, exercising appropriately and making sure your height to waist ratio is kept in check (not carrying excessive visceral fat), should help regulate your triglyceride level. There are few other factors that should also be considered when trying to reduce your triglyceride levels. Alcohol has a particularly potent effect on triglycerides, so be sure to reduce your alcohol intake. Be sure to get outdoors frequently, because a lack of vitamin D can negatively impact your triglyceride level. Finally, Omega-3 is also believed to be beneficial for those with high triglyceride levels.  The Mediterranean diet is highly regarded as a recommended lifestyle to adopt if you have concerns about your heart health, including the consumption of Omega-3 to decrease triglycerides.
The good news about lowering your triglycerides is that time and time again, the advice given is to start with diet and lifestyle factors, which will also positively impact on other aspects of your health – including all of the 5 key factors we measure at Health Results (Waist to height ratio, Blood pressure, Blood glucose level, Blood triglyceride level and HDL cholesterol).