Harvard Women's Health Watch

How to improve triglyceride levels

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Diet

Diets high in refined carbohydrates increase triglycerides. Reduce your intake of sweets and foods such as white rice and breads, pasta, and snacks made from white or semolina flour; instead, choose whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid trans fats, and limit saturated fat intake to less than 7% of calories; most of your fat calories (25% to 35% of total calories) should come from largely monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and nuts. Eat oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and anchovies.

Exercise

You can lower triglyceride levels and lose weight by engaging in physical activities that increase your heart rate. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise such as brisk walking, stair climbing, or bicycling most days of the week.

Alcohol use

Alcohol, even in small amounts, may raise triglyceride levels, so keep your alcohol intake to a minimum.

Weight loss

Losing excess weight (even just 10 pounds) can lower triglyceride levels. Aim for a body mass index between 18.5 and 25.

Supplements

The B vitamin niacin can lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. Also, the American Heart Association recommends fish oil capsules for people with high triglyceride levels. Talk to your doctor before taking either of these supplements.

Medications

If lifestyle changes don't bring down your triglyceride levels, your clinician may recommend fibric acid derivatives (gemfibrozil and fenofibrate), also known as fibrates. Fibrates are often prescribed in conjunction with a statin, a powerful LDL-reducer that also modestly lowers triglycerides and to a lesser extent increases HDL.

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