Demystifying Triglycerides: Why Working Adults Should Care About Them

Learn why triglyceride screening matters for working adults and how to lower high levels through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

As you go through life focusing on work, family, and relationships, it's easy to lose sight of some of the basic building blocks of health and longevity.

One of these fundamental components that often gets overlooked is your triglyceride level. Understanding what triglycerides are, why they matter, how to monitor them, and steps you can take to optimize them is key to supporting your long term health and wellness.

This guide will demystify triglycerides, provide an overview of how they work in your body, discuss the importance of testing and monitoring them, and suggest lifestyle changes and strategies to help keep your triglyceride levels in a healthy range.

TLDR: Triglycerides are a type of fat; high levels can increase risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • Regular testing and monitoring of triglyceride levels is recommended to keep them in a healthy range.
  • Making lifestyle changes like a healthier diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and managing stress can help lower triglycerides.
  • Paying attention to and optimizing triglyceride levels is an important part of maintaining long term health and wellbeing.

What Are Triglycerides and Why Do They Matter?

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. They come from excess calories in your diet that your body doesn't need right away, so it stores them in fat cells for energy.

Why High Triglycerides Matter for Heart Health

Elevated triglyceride levels, however, can lead to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This increases your chance of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and other heart problems.

Triglycerides and cholesterol are often tested together with a simple blood draw to determine your risk of cardiovascular disease. While high cholesterol is a concern, both high triglycerides and high cholesterol together can accelerate the buildup of plaque in your arteries. This is why monitoring both is key.

Causes of High Triglycerides

High triglyceride levels are often caused by a combination of lifestyle and genetic factors. The most common causes of high triglycerides include:


The foods you eat have a significant impact on your triglyceride levels.

A diet high in calories, carbohydrates, and fats can increase triglycerides. Consuming excess sugar, refined carbohydrates like white flour and white rice, and saturated fats found in red meat and full-fat dairy products can raise triglycerides. Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase triglyceride levels.

Obesity and Overweight

Carrying excess weight puts strain on your body's ability to properly metabolize triglycerides and fat. Losing weight through diet and exercise is one of the most effective ways to lower high triglyceride levels. Shedding just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can help significantly reduce triglycerides.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Lack of physical activity contributes to high triglyceride levels. Exercise helps your body burn calories and fat, and keeps your weight under control.

Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Walking, jogging, biking, and swimming are excellent options. In addition to aerobic exercise, do strength or resistance training a few times a week to build muscle. More muscle helps your body utilize insulin and burn fat more efficiently.


Some individuals are genetically predisposed to having high triglyceride levels. Family history plays a role in up to 50 percent of cases of high triglycerides. While you cannot change your genetics, following a heart-healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and regular exercise can help minimize the impact.

Should You Test for Triglycerides?

Regular testing and monitoring of your triglyceride levels is critical for managing your health and risk of disease. By tracking your triglycerides over time, you gain important insight into whether lifestyle or medication changes are needed to keep levels in a healthy range.

Why Test for Triglycerides?

Testing triglycerides, along with other lipids like cholesterol, helps determine your risk of coronary artery disease, heart attack, and other serious health conditions. High triglycerides are often a symptom of other disorders that can damage your arteries and internal organs over time.

How Often to Test

For most adults, the American Heart Association recommends testing triglyceride levels every 4 to 6 years. However, more frequent testing may be needed if:

  • You have been diagnosed with high triglycerides or are taking medication to lower them. In this case, retesting every 2 to 4 weeks is common when making treatment changes or starting a new medication.
  • You have other risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes. Annual or biennial testing may be recommended.
  • You've recently made substantial lifestyle changes like adopting a new diet or exercise regimen. Retesting 3 to 6 months after changes allows you to evaluate their impact.

Interpreting the Results

Normal: <150 mg/dL

At this level, your risk of developing heart disease is lowest. Triglyceride levels in this range show that you likely have a healthy diet and exercise regimen, healthy weight, limit excess sugar and refined carb intake, don't smoke and only drink alcohol in moderation.

Borderline High: between 150 to 199 mg/dL

You are at increased risk of developing high triglycerides and may need to make lifestyle changes to lower your levels and risk. Losing excess weight, improving your diet, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking and getting more exercise can all help lower borderline high triglyceride levels.

High: between 200 to 499 mg/dL

At this level, you are at high risk of developing diseases like heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes. Significant lifestyle changes and medication may be needed to lower high triglyceride levels to a healthy range. Treatment focuses on weight loss, diet, exercise and limiting alcohol. Medications like statins, fibrates or niacin may also be recommended.

Very High: over 500 mg/dL

You are at severe risk of developing life-threatening diseases like pancreatitis. Aggressive treatment with medication and lifestyle changes will be needed to lower very high triglyceride levels as quickly as possible. Hospitalization may be required in some cases.

Mito Health's flagship package, priced at $499, offers testing for triglycerides as well as 66 other carefully curated biomarkers that provide insight into various aspects of your health - this comprehensive suite of tests allows for early detection of cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes and more.

In addition to testing, you will receive a personalized health optimization plan from our doctors incorporating supplements, nutrition, exercise and sleep strategies, and access to exclusive health and longevity events.

Lifestyle Changes to Improve Triglyceride Levels

To improve your triglyceride levels, several lifestyle changes can help. Making healthy adjustments to your daily habits can have a significant impact on this important health marker.

Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

  • Reduce carbohydrate intake, especially refined carbs like white bread and sugary snacks, as they prompt blood sugar spikes and stimulate triglyceride production.
  • Prioritize whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet.
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids through sources like fatty fish or supplements, known for their potent triglyceride-lowering effects.
  • Limit saturated and trans fats by opting for lean protein sources, and avoid full-fat dairy, red meat, and fried foods.
  • Choose plant-based proteins, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and avocados for a heart-healthy approach.
  • Overall, a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and refined carbohydrates but rich in fiber, lean proteins, and healthy fats, focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, nuts, and legumes, is key to managing and reducing triglyceride levels.

Increase Physical Activity

  • Aim for at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Walking, biking, swimming or jogging are excellent options.
  • High intensity interval or resistance training 2-3 times a week provides additional benefit.
  • Any movement helps, so find physical activities you enjoy and stick with it. Staying active improves circulation, helps control weight, and makes it easier to follow a healthy diet.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

  • Avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible. This provides the greatest benefit for reducing triglyceride levels.
  • If you do choose to drink, limit yourself to: 1 drink per day for women and female-bodied individuals; 2 drinks per day for men and male-bodied individuals
  • A single drink equals: 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with an alcohol content of 80 proof
  • Keeping alcohol consumption within these limits can help manage your triglyceride levels. Cutting it out completely is ideal.

Stop Smoking

  • Stop smoking cigarettes, cigars and other tobacco products as they negatively impact your heart health
  • Avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.
  • Talk to your doctor about prescription medications that can help you quit. Options include nicotine patches, gum or lozenges.

Tips for Lowering Triglycerides Through Diet

To lower your triglyceride levels through diet, make the following changes:

Reduce carbohydrates, especially refined carbs.

Cut back on high-carb foods like white bread, pasta, rice, and sugary snacks. These foods cause a spike in blood sugar and stimulate triglyceride production. Focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables instead.

Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3s have potent triglyceride-lowering effects. Aim for two to three servings of fatty fish like salmon, sardines or herring per week. Fish oil or flaxseed supplements may also help.

Lose excess weight.

Losing 5-10% of your body weight can lower triglycerides by 20% or more. Focus on a balanced reduced-calorie diet and regular exercise. Losing weight, especially belly fat, will boost your health and longevity.

Limit saturated fat and trans fat.

Choose lean sources of protein and limit full-fat dairy, red meat, and fried foods which are high in saturated fat and trans fats, both of which raise triglycerides. Opt for plant-based sources of protein and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocados.

Monitor and stay on medication as prescribed.

If you are on medication to lower triglycerides or cholesterol, take it exactly as prescribed. Talk to your doctor about adjusting or changing medications if triglyceride levels are not improving. Lifestyle changes will also help enhance the effects of medications.

Following these steps can significantly lower your triglycerides and improve your heart health over the long run. Be patient and consistent, as it can take several months of lifestyle modification to see major drops in triglyceride levels. But the rewards to your health and longevity will be well worth it.

Medical Interventions for Managing Triglycerides

If lifestyle changes and medication are not enough to lower your triglyceride levels, your doctor may recommend medical procedures. These interventions should only be considered under the guidance of a physician since they do involve health risks.

Lipid Apheresis

This procedure involves the physical removal of lipids, including triglycerides, from the blood. Blood is drawn from the patient, passed through a machine that separates out the lipids, and the remaining blood components are then returned to circulation.

This method can lower triglyceride levels by up to 70% but requires ongoing treatments to remain effective.

Fibrate Therapy

Fibric acid derivatives, known as fibrates, are a class of drugs that can be used to treat very high triglyceride levels. They work by decreasing triglyceride production in the liver and speeding up the removal of triglycerides from the blood. Common fibrates include gemfibrozil, fenofibrate, and bezafibrate.

These medications need to be closely monitored as they can cause side effects such as stomach issues, gallstones, and muscle pain.

Niacin Supplements

For some patients, high doses of niacin (vitamin B3) may be recommended to help lower triglyceride levels. Niacin works by slowing down the production of triglycerides in the liver.

However, niacin in high amounts can cause side effects like skin flushing, itching, and stomach upset. Dietary supplements may interact with other medications, so you should only take niacin under the guidance of your doctor.

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, especially those high in EPA and DHA, have been shown to help lower triglyceride levels. Omega-3s work by reducing the production of triglycerides in the liver. Common supplements include fish oil, krill oil, and algal oil.

Omega-3 supplements are generally considered very safe for most people but may cause side effects like belching, heartburn, and diarrhea in high amounts. Always talk to your doctor before starting any supplement.


Now that you understand more about triglycerides—what they are, why they matter, and how to keep them in a healthy range—you are empowered to take action. Get tested regularly, know your numbers, and make lifestyle changes as needed. Small steps can have big impacts on your triglyceride levels and overall heart health. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, lose excess weight, limit alcohol, and quit smoking.

At Mito Health, we specialize in advanced health diagnostics to test your triglyceride levels (along with 66 other biomarkers) - to form a science-based, personalized health plan to help you optimize your health. Sign up for our flagship package today to take control of your health and your future.

Written By
J. Hsu
December 26, 2023
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