The Causes of High Triglycerides:
What You Can Do
to Reduce Your Risk

What Are the Causes of High Triglycerides?

The causes of high triglycerides are no mystery. But they are our enemies.

Are you worried about your triglycerides? Research tells us that high triglycerides are an independent risk factor for heart disease. Perhaps you and I should be concerned. But concern and worry are not the same.

When I worry I do little else but worry. When I am concerned I take action. Worry, for me, is incapacitating. Concern is motivating. If we want optimal heart health – which is what this site is about - we should be concerned because…

When we are concerned we take action.

What Do We Need To Know About Triglycerides To Take The Right Actions?

As I said a moment ago the causes of high triglycerides are no mystery. But they are a mystery to many people. To know which actions to take we need to know…

  • What are triglycerides anyway?
  • Which are the causes of high triglycerides that I cannot control?
  • Which are the causes of high triglycerides that I can control?
  • What can I do to lower my triglycerides?

y old graduate school roommate used to say something like this…

"If ignorance is bliss why aren’t more people happy?"

Actually I changed his words a bit to make them less offensive.

But why do we say, "Ignorance is bliss?" One reason is because knowledge, properly applied, requires action. Once we understand the main causes of high triglycerides - and the proper actions to take - the ball is in our court.

If we want optimal heart health we must take some responsibility for achieving it. With that in mind we should first begin by answering the question…

Here’s a question for you…

Are you sick and tired of just not feeling great?

Are there health issues – in addition to your heart health – that concern you? Like…

Anxiety? Or not sleeping well? Or joint pain? Or low energy? Or poor digestion? Or weight gain? Or stress? Why do so many people suffer from these symptoms and others? Those nagging health issues that seem so difficult to define.

Did you know that these health problems – as well as more serious chronic diseases – can be the result of …

  • Your body holding on to too many toxins?
  • And chronic inflammation?
  • And pH and blood sugar imbalance?
  • And your elimination organs not working well?
  • And poor nutrition?
  •  And foods that stress your system?

Many people have come to realize this and have made changes to recapture their health. We have a great – FREE – resource we want you to have. Simply click the link below.

Click here to learn how you can regain your health. 

What Are Triglycerides Anyway?

To control triglycerides (and the causes of high triglycerides) we must know what they are. So here is a thumbnail sketch of what triglycerides are and why we have them.

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fats (lipids) exist. In fact they account for about 95% of the body’s fatty tissue. Triglycerides exist in the foods we eat. And they are converted from other non-fatty foods such as carbohydrates.

Triglycerides rise when we eat more calories – especially of certain kinds of foods – than our body immediately needs. The process goes something like this…

  • We eat a meal loaded with calories.
  • An enzyme called lipase breaks down the fat into glycerol and fatty acids.
  • One glycerol component is joined by three fatty acids – becoming a triglyceride component.
  • Unused triglycerides are transported to fat cells for storage.
  • When energy is needed hormones trigger the release of these stored fats.

This is how our bodies are provided with a constant energy store even though we are not constantly eating.

But sometimes this efficient process gets a kink in it.

  • The body converts and stores more triglycerides than it can use.
  • When production gets too high, blood triglyceride levels increase.
  • When triglyceride levels in the blood get too high we are at higher risk for heart disease.

But how does our energy production system get a kink in it? In other words, what are the causes of high triglycerides? To answer this let’s start with those causes which are more difficult to control. Fortunately they are also…

The Less Common Causes of High Triglycerides

For convenience let’s look at these less common causes of high triglycerides under two related categories: medical conditions and medications.

Medical Conditions

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body lacks sufficient thyroid hormone. A person with hypothyroidism has symptoms relating to a slow metabolism. The symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • weight gain
  • cold intolerance
  • coarse, dry hair
  • hair loss
  • constipation
  • muscle aches
  • depression
  • memory loss
  • abnormal menstrual cycles

Kidney Disease describes a number of the causes of high triglycerides. Among them such conditions as nephritic syndrome. Neprotic syndrome is characterized by:

  • high levels of protein in the urine
  • low protein levels in the blood
  • swelling around the eyes, feet, and hands
  • retention of body fluids
  • elevated lipoprotein levels
  • high LDL cholesterol
  • high triglycerides

Treatment of nephritic syndrome focuses on addressing underlying causes when known. Treatment also involves directly lowering triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.

General kidney failure – a slow decline in kidney failure – also causes many unfavorable health conditions such as:

  • long-term hypertension
  • diabetes
  • congestive heart failure
  • sickle cell anemia
  • lupus
  • elevated triglycerides

Liver Disease is closely related to high triglycerides. Fatty liver is one such liver disease. It involves the overproduction and accumulation of fats – including triglycerides – in liver cells. Severe cases can include liver inflammation and even liver death.

The liver is responsible for converting fats for use in the body. These include mostly triglycerides. Proper liver function can be disrupted by…

  • alcoholism
  • malnutrition
  • pregnancy
  • poisoning
  • diabetes
  • hypothyroidism
  • kidney disease
  • lupus

Familial Hypertriglyceridemia refers to a group of rare genetic disorders that are causes of high triglycerides. They result in high triglyceride levels that can exceed 1,000 mg/dL. Acute or chronic pancreatitis may also occur.

This group of disorders includes the following:

  • familial hyperlipoproteinemias
  • familial dysbetalipoproteinemia
  • familiar lipoprotein lipase deficiency
  • type III hyperlipoproteinemia
  • type V hyperlipoproteinemia

As indicated these causes of high triglycerides run in families. All of them result in abnormal balances of HDL, LDL and triglycerides.

Pregnancy, in addition to other more obvious inconveniences, normally causes cholesterol and triglyceride levels to rise. They peak in the third trimester. After giving birth, most women experience a return to normal levels. Though the cause of pregnancy is widely known many folks think my wife and I do not know it. We have six children.


Medications taken to treat other medical conditions can have a negative impact on triglyceride levels. It is not important at this point to explain in detail the uses of each of the following medicines.

This section merely provides information to those who are taking certain medications and are wondering why their efforts to reduce triglycerides are not successful. Some of these medications can also adversely affect LDL and HDL levels. The partial list is as follows.

  • Oral contraceptives
  • Estrogen replacement therapy
  • Certain steroids
  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Newer classes of antipsychotic medications
  • Cyclosporine
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Progesterone
  • Retinoids
  • Tamoxifen

If you are taking any of these medications your triglycerides may be unusually high in addition to an unhealthy balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol. If medications are not the cause, some underlying medical condition may be to blame.

Many of these conditions are difficult to control and require the intervention of a doctor. The first point of action therefore is to see your doctor. Though these conditions are not easy to control they are not extremely common. Which brings us to the section that applies to most of us…

The Most Common Causes of High Triglycerides


If you have diabetes you probably struggle with elevated triglycerides. You also have a tendency toward low HDL cholesterol.

High cholesterol and triglycerides can cause cardiovascular disease in anyone. However, the damage is usually greater and progresses more rapidly in someone with diabetes.

Also, the low density lipoprotein (LDL) particles are usually smaller and denser in diabetics making them more damaging to the cardiovascular system. Therefore diabetics must take extra caution in controlling HDL, LDL and triglyceride levels.

The following two causes of high triglycerides are more under our control. Someone with diabetes must be extra cautious in these areas. The first of these is…


Triglycerides are the fuel our bodies use for energy. If we take in too much fuel it must be stored somewhere. When there is no more storage room blood triglyceride levels rise.

Obesity can be tied to many conditions. But one thing is clear. The incidence of obesity is rising greatly in countries like the United States. It is clear that in many cases obesity is connected to the choices we make.

When we are overweight we tend to have a poor serum lipid balance. That is, our HDL is too low and our LDL and triglycerides are too high. This combination puts one at a much greater risk for heart disease.

When being overweight is within our control – and we must be honest about this – then it is a call to action.

To lose weight the first call to action is to get some exercise.

Now let me be frank for a moment. I know it is more difficult to exercise when we are overweight. It is also more difficult because we are not as young as we used to be.

I am preaching at myself now. I used to be quite serious about athletics, particularly weightlifting. It was easier then. And I had more time. And I wanted the girls to notice me.

My workouts now – when I do them – look nothing like they did then. Yet there are people older than me who are in better shape.

Ouch. This hurts. But it is my fault. It is because of the choices I am making on a daily basis.

We all form habits. The important thing is to form good habits. Habits that will move us toward the goal of – not just heart health but - optimal heart health.

So the first call to action to lose weight and balance cholesterol and triglycerides is to begin a regular exercise routine.

The second call to action involves the single most common cause of high triglycerides. And that is…


Talk about a call to action!

It is obvious that diet is connected to obesity. But overweight or not, diet is essential to heart health…

Oh pardon me. Diet is essential to optimal heart health. After all that is our goal.

The good news is diet is almost completely within our control. And it is one of the leading causes of high triglycerides. The bad news is it makes us responsible. But we are up for it. The problem is we have obstacles such as…

  • We are in a hurry.
  • We don’t cook many home cooked meals.
  • Healthy organic foods are harder to get.
  • So many foods are highly processed.
  • We love sugar.
  • We love fatty foods.
  • We don’t know what to eat.

Alright. We get the picture.

The fact is our culture thrives on sugary, fatty food-look-alikes that are largely devoid of nutrition. Not only are we taking in all the wrong stuff, we are not getting enough of the good stuff.

A good way to begin adjusting your diet is with the Intentional Diet Guide.

Or - for brave souls - you might want to jump right in with the 30-Day Challenge.

Either one is a very good start toward improving your triglyceride levels as well as your overall heart health.

What Can I Do, Then, To Lower My Triglycerides?

We should eat…

  • cold water fish – such as salmon and tuna - high in omega-3
  • meats low in saturated fats
  • whole grains
  • fresh organic vegetables
  • organic fruits
  • complex carbohydrates

First, get some exercise. Join a gym. Take energetic walks. Ride a bike aggressively. Scale Mt. Everest.

Second, watch your diet. This is not the place for a full discussion on triglyceride reducing diets. That is another section which you can access from the main triglycerides page by using the link at the bottom of this page. But let’s look at the short list here.

We should avoid…

  • alcohol
  • simple carbohydrates (not all carbohydrates)
  • highly saturated fatty foods
  • processed foods
  • foods containing trans-fats

Third, in addition to eating omega-3 rich foods, be sure to take omega-3 rich supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids come in three forms. ALA comes from vegetables. EPA and DHA come from cold water fish oils.

For most of us it involves three things. This is our call to action. Two of them take a little discipline. The third is a cakewalk. These are…

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Observe a healthy diet.
  • Take quality omega-3 rich supplements.

Omega-3 has long been used to lower triglycerides and balance cholesterol – as well as a long list of other health issues. The marine sources of omega-3 have proven to be much more effective in lowering triglycerides.

The usefulness of fish oils is so well known even the American Heart Association recommends 2 - 4 grams per day of omega-3 from fish oils for people trying to lower triglyceride levels.

Be careful to get only high quality fish oils from a trusted source.

So there you have it… Your call to action to lower your triglycerides and keep them low. A call to action toward optimal heart health.

If you wish to read more about the proper diet for better triglyceride levels or how omega-3 affects triglycerides please return to the main triglycerides page and use the links there.

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