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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : My doctor says my triglyceride level is high. What is the normal value? What type of diet can lower triglyceride levels?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Howard LeWine, M.D., is chief editor of Internet Publishing, Harvard Health Publications. He is a clinical instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital. Dr. LeWine has been a primary care internist and teacher of internal medicine since 1978.

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July 13, 2012
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A:

Here are the ranges for triglyceride blood levels:

  • Normal -- Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter
  • Borderline high -- Between 150 and 199 milligrams per deciliter
  • High -- Between 200 and 499 milligrams per deciliter
  • Very high -- 500 milligrams per deciliter and above

It's important that this blood test be performed in a fasting state. That means no food or drinks other than water for approximately eight to 10 hours before the blood test.

As triglyceride levels rise, the risk of coronary heart disease also rises. This is especially true when HDL (good) cholesterol levels are low and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels are high. Very high levels of triglycerides can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

The most important step you can take to lower triglycerides is to lower your daily calorie intake to lose weight. Alcohol can also be a major contributor to high triglyceride. So you may need to eliminate alcohol completely.

Here are some ways to help lower your calorie count and triglyceride level:

  • Cut out all simple sugars by avoiding sugary foods and beverages. Substitute sweeteners are okay.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and whole grain foods. (In this case, don’t count potatoes as a vegetable.)
  • Use healthy fats in moderation. These are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive oil and canola oil. A reminder: fats have the greatest number of calories per gram. And all calories matter when trying to lower triglyceride levels.

There are no special foods that you can eat to help lower triglyceride levels.

The B vitamin niacin lowers triglyceride levels. You can buy niacin without a prescription. But you should still talk with your doctor before starting it.

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