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2/24/2022
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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Written by
Brooke McKelvey
Team Nutrisense
Reviewed by
Katie Kissane
MS, RD
a few test tubes

Did you know that high triglycerides and blood glucose levels are linked? Well, they are! It’s essential to keep blood glucose and triglyceride levels within a healthy range to maintain good health. But to understand why that is, you first need to understand more about triglycerides. 

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood; elevated levels can increase your risk of developing heart disease. Elevated blood glucose levels (the sugar content in your bloodstream) can also lead to health problems. Having high triglycerides and blood glucose levels at the same time increases your risk of heart disease and other serious health problems. But how are triglycerides and blood glucose related?

What are Triglycerides?

a test tube on a cholesterol result test

Sure, they’re a type of lipid (fat) found in the blood, as we mentioned above, but there’s more to it than that. If you’ve ever had your blood drawn for a cholesterol test, you may have heard mention of triglycerides. Triglycerides are the most common type of lipid in the human body. Their composition includes three fatty acids and one glycerol molecule, and they’re usually produced by the body to store energy. 

You typically find them in dairy products, meat, and oils. When the body breaks down food (particularly carbohydrates) for energy, it creates these triglycerides. Many factors can contribute to high triglyceride levels, including diet, exercise, weight, and genetics. 

Causes of High Triglyceride Levels

In the United States, high triglyceride levels are widespread. Approximately 26 percent of adults in the US have high triglyceride levels, which means that about 1/4 of us are at risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems down the road. 

If your doctor has told you that you have high triglyceride levels, it’s essential to understand what that means and what you can do about it. Learning about the cause of your high triglycerides is the first step in taking action to lower them.

Wondering how doctors measure these levels? According to the University of Michigan, here’s how they measure high triglyceride levels after blood testing:

a description how doctors measure high triglyceride levels

Here are some causes that you should be aware of:

Mismanaged Type 2 Diabetes

One of the most common chronic illnesses in the United States is type 2 diabetes. The CDC estimates that 37.3 million Americans have it, and as many as 96 million are pre-diabetic. Studies have shown that high triglyceride levels have links to poor blood glucose control. If you have diabetes and don’t correctly manage it, you may find your triglyceride levels climbing, potentially worsening your diabetes. So, controlling your triglyceride levels may help you handle type 2 diabetes. 

Consuming More Calories Than You Burn

a person eating a sausage, potatoes and salad

What you eat is important, especially regarding your triglyceride levels. Consuming more calories than you burn may significantly contribute to high triglycerides. When we consume too many calories this excess energy has to be stored. 

The most common storage is as fat, so the body packages it in the form of triglycerides. These are then transported in the bloodstream for storage in fat cells, causing elevated triglyceride levels. Staying aware of information like this could help you make better dietary choices and improve your health! 

Eating Too many High Carbohydrate Rich Foods

It’s no secret that eating a healthy diet is vital for maintaining overall health. However, you may not know that consuming too many high carbohydrate foods can cause your triglyceride levels to spike. When you consume too many carbohydrates (an amount above what your body is able to process at once), you need to find a way to store this excess energy. Your body converts the sugar (glucose) to fatty acids and forms triglycerides. And, as we mentioned before, these triglycerides are then transported through the bloodstream to be stored in fat cells.

So, if you’re looking to keep your triglyceride levels in check, it’s essential to watch your carbohydrate intake. Next time you’re grocery shopping, stock up on healthy protein and low-carbohydrate foods like fruits and vegetables!

Insulin Resistance

a person preparing to inject the insulin

Insulin resistance is when the body doesn’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. When you have insulin resistance, your blood sugar levels can get too high. And when when your blood sugars are too high, the excess sugar in the bloodstream can get converted to fatty acids. So, understanding your blood glucose levels and insulin resistance is crucial to understanding your overall health. 

If you’re worried about your triglyceride levels, talk to your doctor about getting tested for insulin resistance. Treatment for insulin resistance can help improve your triglyceride levels.

Hereditary Factors

Did you know that high triglyceride levels are often hereditary? It means that if your parents or grandparents have high triglyceride levels, you’re more likely to experience them as well. In fact, there’s a condition called familial hypertriglyceridemia, passed down in families. Genetic defects may cause the disorder in tandem with environmental factors. Hypertriglyceridemia is often diagnosed alongside high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia), obesity, and high insulin levels. 

Medications

Did you know that a large number of medications may cause high triglyceride levels? If you’re taking prescription medications, you should know whether what you're taking can cause high triglyceride levels. If you’re taking medication and have concerns about your triglyceride levels, be sure to talk to your doctor. 

Some medications that may cause high triglycerides include:

How are Triglycerides and Blood Glucose Related?

a graphic of blood glucose levels

There are many things you need to keep track of when it comes to your health. And your triglycerides and blood glucose levels are two essential metrics that can tell us a lot about our overall wellbeing. 

Most people know that high blood glucose levels are harmful to your health. Still, many don’t know that high triglyceride levels are also dangerous. Having high triglycerides and blood glucose levels at the same time increases your risk of heart disease and other serious health problems. 

If you’re like most people, you probably don’t give much thought to things like triglycerides and blood glucose. But these two substances are so closely related they can impact each other. So, it’s important to consider both for overall wellbeing. 

Tips For Lowering Triglycerides Levels

two plates of salad

Most Americans are familiar with cholesterol, but triglycerides often go unnoticed. Levels of triglycerides in the blood can be a strong predictor of heart disease, so it’s essential to know how to keep them under control. By making simple changes to your lifestyle, you can dramatically reduce your risk of developing long-term health complications. Luckily, there are several things you can do to lower your triglyceride levels. 

Here are a few tips to help you begin lowering your triglyceride levels: 

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Carrying too much extra weight contributes to high triglyceride levels. Metabolic health is vital to controlling triglyceride levels. 
  • Eat a healthy diet low in saturated and unhealthy fats and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Avoid dietary choices that are high in refined sugar and carbohydrates. 
  • Avoid eating late in the evening
  • Exercise regularly. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. 
  • Limit your alcohol intake. High alcohol intakes has been shown to cause elevated triglycerides.
  • If you smoke, it will help to quit.
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