Triglyceride Level: What Should You Know?

Keeping triglyceride levels under control is crucial to reduce the risk of chronic cardiovascular diseases. When are triglyceride levels exceeded? In this space we detail it.
Triglyceride Level: What Should You Know?
Leonardo Biolatto

Written and verified by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Last update: 18 March, 2023

Checking your triglyceride level is part of a routine check-up. Doctors usually ask for a series of laboratory parameters to include in their usual analysis. The level of triglycerides, almost always, has the support of values of bad and good cholesterol.

This data is essential for cardiovascular health and to assess adherence or not to a specific diet. So much so that nutritionists can even use it to evaluate lipid intake in the last 10 days.

Triglycerides are lipids

When measuring the triglyceride level, what we’re doing is obtaining a value of a part of the lipids that circulate in human blood. There are also fats in the tissues, but we cannot measure them with the usual blood analysis.

The body uses lipids to build cell membranes and store energy. From cholesterol and triglycerides, the body is able to fuel internal metabolic processes, which it uses when kilocalories are needed.

The storage site is the cell we know as an “adipocyte.” Inside there are droplets of fat that act as a depot. If we start a series of workouts, for example, or go through situations of freezing, this reserve will be used.

Los triglicéridos son lípidos
Triglycerides are lipids that circulate in the blood. Their excessive accumulation increases the risk of serious cardiovascular diseases.

Normal triglyceride levels

There are some parameters that doctors use to know if triglycerides are in the normal values in the blood. Each laboratory handles its own reagents and this modifies the normality intervals, although there are figures that are more or less always the same.

In the case of triglycerides, they are considered normal when they do not exceed 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood. If they’re between 150 and 199, although they are not yet high, they trigger alerts for a possible eating disorder.

Above 200 milligrams per deciliter is abnormal, and it’s necessary to act with changes in habits and medication. If they exceed 500, we are facing a particular condition – rare – of severe hypertriglyceridemia, generally associated with genetic mutations.

Why is my triglyceride level high?

Having high triglyceride levels is worrisome. Most people with this problem can manage it through diet, if they follow strict guidelines and accompany it with physical exercise.

Meals have a decisive influence on lipid numbers. The worst allies of elevation are saturated fats and trans fats. The former is part of dairy products, chocolate, chicken meat, and egg yolks.

The latter appears in processed products that have undergone the hydrogenation technique, such as crackers, cakes, pies, and sweets.

There are diseases that have  the increase of these lipids as a symptom or sign. This is a collateral effect within all the modifications that these conditions imply in the body. The most notorious are the following:

  • Diabetes: This is a metabolic disorder that doesn’t justalters glycemia. Proteins and lipids also suffer the effects of the lack of insulin or the lack of insulin action. Such is the case of triglyceride levels, which are consistently high in diabetics.
  • Hypothyroidism: The lack of action of thyroid hormones affects cellular metabolism. This means your body cannot efficiently use lipids to function. Triglycerides then accumulate with an increase in adipose tissue.
  • Renal insufficiency: The kidney performs endocrine tasks as well as making and concentrating urine to purify the blood. In the case of renal failure, the organ is unable to perform its daily tasks and to efficiently produce substances involved in the homeostasis of the internal environment. All fats increase their blood concentration in this disorder.

Other causes of a high triglyceride level

A sedentary lifestyle is a cardiovascular risk factor, partly because of its metabolic impact on lipids. Those who do not exercise regularly often have high cholesterol and triglyceride levels with lower blood circulation, so the possibility of arteriosclerosis is also greater.

Finally, toxic habits are among those associated with elevated triglycerides. Smoking and addictive alcohol consumption disrupt the processes of lipid accumulation and utilization. The liver, which is a highly influential organ, weakens from the toxicity of tobacco and alcohol.

Otras causas de triglicéridos altos
High triglycerides can be a consequence of metabolic disorders. However, it also occurs in patients with an unhealthy lifestyle.

Is it possible to have a low triglyceride level?

While we always talk about high triglycerides in the blood, there is the opposite condition, with low values. To determine such a diagnosis, less than 35 milligrams per deciliter of the lipid must be detected.

In this case, the causes are fewer than in pathological elevations, but no less important. The four most frequent are the following:

  • Diet: A diet of saturated and trans fats will raise triglycerides, but conversely, there are also diets that lower them too much. Diets that excessively cut out all lipids end up being counterproductive.
  • Malabsorption syndrome: When the intestine is unable to take all the nutrients from the food we eat, we are dealing with a malabsorption syndrome. The causes are very varied, but the final result coincides with the deficit of incorporation of necessary substances. Lipids, in particular, are expelled with the feces in this disorder.
  • Hyperthyroidism: A high concentration of thyroid hormones in the blood forces the cellular metabolism, which causes a large part of the lipid energy reserves to be consumed. Adipocytes do not conserve triglycerides and give them away.
  • Malnutrition: In severe cases of malnutrition due to lack of intake or diseases that lead to weight loss, patients can experience hypoglycemia, hypoproteinemia, and hypolipidemia.

You can control your triglyceride levels

It’s important to get regular blood tests. In this way, doctors can detect various biochemical parameters before they cause problems. In the case of triglycerides, this reduces your cardiovascular risk.

Whether your triglyceride levels are high or you have a marked decrease, you should follow a multidisciplinary approach with medication, diet, and physical exercise. A doctor and a nutritionist can help to regularize your values.

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The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.