Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood and your fat cells. Triglycerides are the main form of fat stored in the body. They result from the digestion of fats from food, and provide you with the energy to undertake your daily activities.
Many Australians, especially those carrying too much weight around their waist, have raised triglyceride levels.
The link between high triglycerides and cardiovascular disease (disease of the heart and blood vessels, such as heart attack and stroke) is complex. Raised levels of triglycerides are often part of what is known as ‘metabolic syndrome’, a condition that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. A person with metabolic syndrome will have excess weight around the waist and at least 2 of the following:
When you have a blood cholesterol test, the laboratory can measure triglyceride levels as well. The levels of triglyceride can be influenced by the recent intake of fat in the diet and the consumption of alcohol.
When you are being tested for triglyceride levels you are usually asked to have no food or drinks (other than water) for about 10 to 12 hours before the test. Also, some doctors advise that you should abstain from alcohol for 24 hours before testing. Many people have their blood test in the morning after fasting overnight.
The target level of triglycerides in the blood should be less than 2.0 mmol/L.
As high plasma triglyceride levels may indicate an increased risk of future heart disease, especially in combination with high levels of total cholesterol and ‘bad’ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, it is important that you maintain your triglycerides below the recommended levels. Very high levels of triglycerides (above 10 mmol/L) may also cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
You may be able to lower your triglyceride levels in several ways:
Your doctor may prescribe medicines such as gemfibrozil (for example, Ausgem, Jezil, Lopid), fenofibrate (brand name Lipidil) or nicotinic acid to help reduce your levels of triglycerides. Nicotinic acid is a form of vitamin B; however, it should be used to lower triglyceride levels only under a doctor’s supervision, as side effects are possible. Fish oil may also be prescribed, either on its own or in conjunction with other medicines.
Some medicines for other conditions can raise triglyceride levels — if this is the case, your doctor may suggest an alternative.
If you have abnormal cholesterol levels as well as raised triglycerides, your doctor may recommend another medicine in addition to those that lower your triglycerides. Talk to your doctor to find out the best treatment for you.
Last Reviewed: 06 June 2012