University of Illinois Extension

What are triglycerides?

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Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists. Triglycerides are the human body's storage form of fat. Blood triglyceride levels above 150 mg/dl are considered high, and may also play a role in forming plaque. Being overweight, drinking large amounts of alcohol, having diabetes and hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) can cause high blood triglycerides. To reduce elevated triglyceride levels:

  • Keep blood glucose levels in a normal range
  • Limit sugars, sweets, refined carbohydrates, and alcohol
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Limit your intake of fats and saturated fats

If you would like to find out your HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, ask your health care provider for a lipid profile. A blood lipid profile is a blood test for your total cholesterol, HDL-cholesterol, and triglyceride level, (LDL-cholesterol is estimated from these numbers).

*Note: You need to fast for 12 hours before a blood lipid profile

How high is too high?
The risk for heart disease is increased when there is too much cholesterol and/or triglycerides in your blood. The chart below will help you determine if your cholesterol and triglyceride levels put you at higher risk.

National Institute of Health Recommendations for Blood

Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels


Borderline High Risk

High Risk

Total Cholesterol

< 200 mg/dl

200-239 mg/dl

> 240 mg/dl

LDL Cholesterol

< 100 mg/dl

130-159 mg/dl

>160 mg/dl

HDL Cholesterol

> 60 mg/dl

60 – 40 mg/dl

< 40 mg/dl


< 150 mg/dl

150-199 mg/dl

> 200 mg/dl

If your total cholesterol level is in the "borderline risk" range or "high risk" range, your doctor will probably recheck your blood with an additional evaluation, a "lipid profile."

Back to: Eating for Cardiovascular Health

This document is a source of information only, and is not medical advice.