Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: High triglycerides

Q. At a recent check-up, my doctor told me that my cholesterol was normal but my triglycerides were high. What are triglycerides, and do I need to lower them?

A. Triglycerides are fats (lipids) that move through the bloodstream and can be stored in body tissues. Whether you need to do anything about your triglycerides depends on how high they are. Anything above 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered too high and raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. Very high triglycerides (over 500 mg/dl) can lead to pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas.

When you consume more calories than you need, the body makes triglycerides and stores them in fat cells. This type of lipid can be metabolized later to make energy. High-fat foods raise triglycerides, but sugars and alcohol have even more of an effect.

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