Triglycerides are a type of lipid or fat that the body produces to store extra calories and provide energy. Cholesterol is another lipid that circulates in the blood. Your body uses cholesterol to make cells and hormones.
Both triglycerides and cholesterol are important to your health, but levels that are too high put your health at risk. A healthy lifestyle helps keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels within the normal range.
Health conditions associated with triglycerides and cholesterol
High levels of lipids in the blood can increase the risk of plaque (fatty material) forming in the arteries or thickening of the artery walls ( atherosclerosis ).
Other health conditions associated with high triglyceride or cholesterol levels include:
- High blood sugar or diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease.
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
- Increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Acute pancreatitis
- Genetic conditions
How to reduce triglyceride and cholesterol levels naturally
Your genes, diet, and lifestyle affect triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Some people naturally produce more triglycerides and cholesterol than others. This is based on your genetics and family history. However, these levels are only a fraction of your overall lipid levels, and lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to keep your levels within a healthy range.
Some of the lifestyle choices that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels include:
- Quit smoking: Quitting and passive quitting can help lower lipid levels.
- Daily exercise: Regular physical activity for about 30 minutes most days of the week helps improve your overall health. Try walking, swimming, biking, lifting weights, or whatever. Naturally increase your movement by climbing stairs, parking away from the door, and walking during your lunch break.
- Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese is associated with an increase in blood lipids. Behavioral changes that help you lose weight can help lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The types and amounts of food you eat have a significant impact on your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The following tips can help you lower your lipid levels:
- Portion control: When you consume more calories than your body needs, those calories are stored as fat and increase blood lipids. Control portions and stop eating when you feel full to avoid overeating. Eating small plates and eating more slowly can also help you avoid overeating.
- Avoid excess sugar and refined carbohydrates: High carbohydrate intake and sugary foods increase triglyceride levels. Limit your intake of processed carbohydrates, sugary drinks, sweets, and desserts.
- Limit Unhealthy Fats – Avoid foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter. Too much saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease. These foods often contain omega-6 fatty acids, which can increase the risk of inflammation and disease.
- Eat healthy fats in moderation – Unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are good for your heart. Unsaturated fats are found in fish, olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory and can help reduce the risk of disease. They are found in oily fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), walnuts, and flaxseed.
- Eat high-fiber foods: Research shows that soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol (known as "bad" cholesterol), which is more likely to form plaque in the arteries. Soluble fiber is found in beans, oats, barley, oranges, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption – Excessive alcohol consumption increases triglyceride levels. It also contains a lot of calories and sugar, which can increase your weight and your lipid levels. If you have very high triglyceride levels, you can avoid alcohol altogether.
Frequently asked questions
How fast can I lower my cholesterol?
Your cholesterol levels can drop from several weeks to several months, depending on your treatment plan.
If your level is very high, your healthcare provider may recommend medications at the beginning of your treatment plan. This can help lower your cholesterol levels more quickly. The sooner you can lower your bad cholesterol, the sooner you reduce your risk of plaque formation.
You can also lower your cholesterol levels with just lifestyle and diet changes, but it can take three to six months to see results. Talk to your doctor to determine the best treatment plan for you.
Will the ketogenic diet lower triglycerides and cholesterol?
No, ketogenic diets have been shown to increase cholesterol levels. However, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart attacks.
The Mediterranean diet encourages the daily consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and healthy fats; eat fish, poultry, beans, and eggs weekly; reduce servings of dairy products; and limit red meat.
How does fiber intake affect triglyceride and cholesterol levels?
A high intake of fiber, especially soluble fiber, helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fiber also keeps you fuller longer and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
How can I lower my cholesterol and triglyceride levels if I have an underactive thyroid?
If you have hypothyroidism, thyroid replacement medications can help treat your thyroid condition and lower your cholesterol levels.
How long does it take to lower triglyceride levels?
Depending on the cause of your high triglyceride levels, you can lower them in just a few days. Drinking at night or eating foods high in sugar can cause triglyceride levels to rise. Limiting your alcohol and sugar intake can bring your levels back to normal within a few days.
If you have persistently high triglyceride levels, it may take several months before they return to normal levels. The rate at which they decline depends on changes in lifestyle, diet, and medications you take.
Get the word of drug information
Cholesterol and triglyceride levels are important indicators of your overall health. The good news is that both can degrade naturally. You can lower your lipid levels by exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, avoiding sugar, choosing healthy fats, and consuming soluble fiber.
Talk to your healthcare professional about a routine blood test to check lipid levels. And ask your doctor any questions about your specific health needs.