Triglycerides are a type of lipid, or fat, found in the blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. The American Heart Association says that many people with heart disease or diabetes have high serum triglycerides. Reducing your triglycerides to a normal level will help improve your health and may even extend your life, according to Nieca Goldberg, M.D., a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University and medical director of the NYU Women’s Heart Program.
Get your serum triglycerides tested. This is part of the same test used to measure cholesterol, says Dr. Goldberg. Your goal should be to get your serum triglycerides to under 150 mg/dl. The AHA states that anything over 150 mg/dl is considered elevated, and a reading of 500 mg/dl or above is dangerously high.
Cut calories. Triglycerides build up in your blood when you eat more calories than your body can use right away, according to the Mayo Clinic. Cutting your caloric intake to close to what you need to stay healthy can help slash your serum triglycerides -- that level is around 1900 for women and around 2500 for men, registered dietician Elisa Zied stated in an interview conducted in October, 2010.
Avoid unhealthy fats. The Mayo Clinic recommends reducing saturated fats, which are found in animal products, and completely avoiding transfats. Transfatty acids, or transfats, are unhealthy fats found in fried foods, bagged snacks like potato chips, and commercial pastries. Check food labels, and avoid those that contain partially hydrogenated oil, the Mayo Clinic states.
Limit alcohol. Research shows that drinking too much alcohol can raise your serum triglycerides, Goldberg notes. The AHA recommends that women consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day and men no more than two drinks per days. Limit sugary mixes when consuming mixed drinks; sugar also increases triglyceride levels, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Exercise regularly. Not only will exercise reduce your serum triglycerides, it will also lower “bad” cholesterol and boost “good” cholesterol, Goldberg says. Exercise for 30 minutes on most or all days of the week by taking a brisk walk, swimming laps or joining an exercise group. If you’ve been inactive for a long time or are overweight, be sure to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Consider fish oil supplements. In a 2008 study, eight weeks of treatment with fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids reduced triglyceride levels by 46 percent. Salmon, mackerel, sardines and albacore tuna are also good sources of triglyceride-lowering omega-3 fatty acids, Goldberg notes.
Check your meds. According to the Mayo Clinic, high triglycerides can be a side effect of taking beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics or steroids. If you take these medications, be sure to have your triglycerides tested regularly.
For some people, lifestyle changes may not be enough to reduce triglyceride levels, Goldman says. If drug-free strategies aren’t working to get your triglycerides into a healthy range, you may need to go on triglyceride-lowering prescription medications.