Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Do I need to worry about high triglycerides if I have normal cholesterol?

Q. My cholesterol is normal, but my triglyceride level is high. Should I be concerned?

A. This is certainly worth discussing with your doctor and taking action, if necessary. Like cholesterol, triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. Even when cholesterol levels are normal, high triglycerides increase the risk of developing heart disease, especially in postmenopausal women. High triglyceride levels are often correlated with low levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol, and high levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol.

Fortunately, triglyceride levels respond to intensive lifestyle changes, including a program of weight loss, diet, and exercise. Losing 5% to 10% of your body weight, exercising at moderate intensity on most days, and eating healthy unsaturated fats instead of saturated ones can lower your triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%. Also limit fructose, the sugar found in fruit, to less than 100 grams per day. Avoid white bread and sugar-sweetened soft drinks. Include plenty of vegetables, high-fiber whole grains, and unsaturated fats—especially omega-3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon, herring, and sardines—in your diet.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »