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Triglyceride frequently asked questions
Click on the questions below to understand more about triglycerides and how they affect you.
Are raised triglycerides a risk factor for heart disease?
Yes, a number of studies have shown a significant and independent link between blood triglyceride levels and heart attacks.
What are the normal levels of triglycerides and HDL cholesterol?
Fasting triglyceride levels should be below 1.7 mmol/L for both men and women. Non fasting triglycerides should be below 2.3 mmol/L.
HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) should be over 1.2 mmol/L for a woman and over 1 mmol/L for a man. Higher levels confer more protection against heart disease.
How can I lower my triglycerides?
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grain cereals, low fat dairy products together with small portions of lean meat and fish is advised. If you are overweight, then losing just 5-10% of your weight can help to lower triglyceride levels. Being more physically active, and making changes to your diet at the same time will help you to lose weight. Limiting sugary foods and alcohol is also advised. See our factsheets for further helpful advice.
Which medicines lower triglycerides?
Statins can make small reductions in triglyceride levels.
However fibrates (Bezafibrate, Ciprofibrate, Fenofibrate, Gemfibrozil) have a greater effect on triglyceride levels and are often prescribed when both cholesterol and triglyceride levels are raised.
Concentrated fish oils (active ingredients EPA and DHA) can also be prescribed (Omacor, Maxepa) and have beneficial effects on triglyceride levels.
How can I raise HDL cholesterol?
HEART UK recommends the following lifestyle approach to raising HDL levels. If you are a smoker it is best to stop because smoking depresses HDL levels. Check out where to get advice and support. If you carry a lot of excess weight around your waist then losing some of this could help increase your HDL and reduce your triglyceride levels. Aim to lose about 1 lb a week by being more physically active and cutting back on high calorie foods, portion sizes and any alcohol.
Eat a balanced diet based on starchy wholegrain foods with plenty of fruit and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Opt for cooking oils higher in the monounsaturated fats such as rapeseed oil and olive oil (but use sparingly if overweight) and include nuts and soya regularly.
Is oily fish effective at lowering triglycerides?
Oily fish is rich in EPA and DHA which are two omega 3 fatty acids that can help lower triglycerides. However to have an effect you would need to eat several portions of oily fish per week which might be unrealistic.
Sadly most of us eat very little oily fish despite the recommendations to have two portions of fish each week, one of which should be oily. See our fish factsheet for more advice