Triglycerides are fats in the body that are produced as a result of what you eat, so making positive changes to your diet and exercise routine, not smoking and limiting or avoiding alcohol can improve your triglyceride levels. Underlying disease conditions such as diabetes or genetic disorders may also contribute to high triglyceride levels.
Extra calories in your diet are converted to triglycerides in your body and stored within your fat cells. Hormones determine when to release these for energy.
The American Heart Association recommends that all adults over 20 years of age have a complete lipid profile performed once every five years. This test will determine your total cholesterol value in addition to other components such as LDL, or low-density lipoprotein; HDL, or high-density lipoprotein; and triglyceride levels.
What Your Triglyceride Levels Mean
The National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines for triglycerides state that a normal level is less than 150 milligrams per deciliter. Borderline-high values are between 150 and 199 mg/dL,high is between 200 and 499 mg/dL and very high is over 500 mg/dL.
Ways to Lower Your Triglycerides
Triglyceride levels are related to your lifestyle choices of diet, exercise, alcohol use and smoking habits. Lose weight if you need to by reducing your calories -- especially those from sugar -- and increase your physical activity, aiming for 30 minutes most days of the week. Diets that are very high in carbohydrates -- over 60 percent of total calories -- can contribute to higher triglyceride levels. Reduce the amount of sweets, desserts and added sugars in your diet and get the majority of your carbohydrates from nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Use plant-based monounsaturated fats such as olive or canola oil and limit saturated and trans fats for overall cardiac health. Even small amounts of alcohol can increase your triglyceride levels -- limit or avoid alcohol.
More Diet Tips
Home-cooked meals are always a good option when you are trying to change your dietary habits, as you have full control over the ingredients and quantities. Reading the nutrition facts label on foods will help you identify food items that are high in added sugar or that contain trans fats. Use unsweetened applesauce in your baking or cut the amount of recommended sugar in half; make note of the final product and any revisions you would make. Seltzer water with lemon or lime provide an alternative to alcoholic beverages.