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Treatment Options for High Triglycerides

The first-choice treatment for high triglycerides is a healthy lifestyle. If you're overweight, even moderate weight loss can make a difference. Other helpful steps include getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol, and quitting smoking, if you smoke. On the diet front, it may help to limit foods with saturated fat, trans fat, refined grains, and added sugar. When lifestyle changes alone aren't enough, other treatment options may be considered.

Treating Other Diseases

For some people, certain medical conditions contribute to high triglycerides. In such cases, getting treatment for the underlying disease is crucial. High triglycerides are common in people with untreated type 2 diabetes. They may also occur in people with kidney disease, an underactive thyroid, or lupus. In addition, certain medications -- such as estrogen, corticosteroids, thiazide diuretics, and beta blockers -- can raise triglyceride levels. If you're taking one of these medications, talk with your doctor. It may be possible to change the dose, switch the medication, or offset the effect with lifestyle changes.

Taking Your Medicine

For some people, medication is needed to lower triglyceride levels. Triglycerides and cholesterol are both forms of fat in the blood, and people with high triglycerides often have high levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol and/or low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Some medications do double duty, treating both types of blood-fat problems at once.

Medications that may be prescribed for people with high triglycerides include:

  • Fibrates -- These medications are best at lowering triglycerides. To a lesser degree, they also increase HDL cholesterol. But they don't work very well for people who need to decrease LDL cholesterol.

  • Statins -- These medications are most effective at decreasing LDL. But they also have a modest effect on lowering triglycerides and raising HDL.

  • Niacin -- This is a B vitamin that improves all blood fat levels when taken at doses far above what is needed for nutrition. Niacin is sold as both a prescription drug and a dietary supplement, but only the prescription form should be used to lower high triglycerides.

  • Omega-3 supplements -- Omega-3 fatty acids, found naturally in fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna, and sardines, also help bring down triglyceride levels. Two types of omega-3s are EPA and DHA. For people with high triglycerides, the American Heart Association recommends 2 to 4 grams of EPA/DHA supplements daily. Such high doses of the supplements should only be taken under a doctor's care, however.

Online Medical Reviewer: Spadaro, Louise MD
Date Last Reviewed: 1/7/2010
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