Triglycerides are a type of lipid, or fat, your body produces to store extra calories and provide energy. Cholesterol is another lipid that circulates in your blood. Your body uses cholesterol to build cells and produce hormones.
Both triglycerides and cholesterol are essential for your health but having levels that are too high puts your health at risk. Living a healthy lifestyle helps to keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels within a normal range.
Health Conditions Related to Triglycerides and Cholesterol
High blood lipid levels may increase your risk for plaques (fatty material) to develop in your arteries or thicken the walls of your arteries (atherosclerosis).
Other health conditions related to high triglycerides or cholesterol include:
- High blood sugar levels or diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions that increase your risk for heart disease
- Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
- Increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke
- Acute pancreatitis
- Genetic conditions
How to Lower Triglycerides and Cholesterol Naturally
Your genes, diet, and lifestyle all affect your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Some people naturally produce more triglycerides and cholesterol than others. This is based on their genetics and family history. Still, these levels are just part of your overall lipid levels, and lifestyle changes are one of the best ways to keep your numbers within a healthy range.
Some of the lifestyle choices that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels include:
- Quit smoking: Stopping cigarette smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke can help to lower your lipid levels.
- Exercise daily: Regular physical activity of about 30 minutes most days of the week helps promote your overall health. Try walking more, swimming, riding a bike, lifting weights, or whatever you prefer. Naturally increase your movement by taking the stairs, parking farther from the door, and walking during your lunch break.
- Weight loss and healthy weight maintenance: Being overweight or obese is associated with higher blood lipid levels. Changing behaviors to help you lose weight may help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
The types of food you eat and how much you eat have a significant impact on your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The following tips may help you lower your lipid levels:
- Portion control: When you eat more calories than your body needs, these calories are stored as fat and increase your blood lipid levels. Use portion control and stop eating when you feel full to avoid overeating. Eating from smaller plates and eating slower also may help you avoid overeating.
- Avoid excess sugar and refined carbohydrates: High carb intake and sugary foods increase triglyceride levels. Limit how often you eat processed carbs, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, and desserts.
- Limit unhealthy fats: Avoid foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter. Excess saturated fat increases your risk for heart disease. Often, these foods contain omega-6 fatty acids that can increase inflammation and disease risk.
- Eat healthy fats in moderation: Unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats. Unsaturated fats are found in fish, olives, nuts, seeds, and avocados. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects and may help lower disease risk. They are found in fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, and sardines), walnuts, and flaxseed.
- Eat high-fiber foods: Research shows that soluble fiber can help to lower LDL cholesterol (known as “bad” cholesterol) that is most likely to form plaques in your arteries. Soluble fiber is found in beans, oats, barley, oranges, apples, strawberries, peas, and potatoes.
- Limit alcohol: Excessive alcohol intake increases triglyceride levels. It is also high in calories and sugar, which can increase your weight and lipid levels. If you have extremely high triglyceride levels, you may want to avoid alcohol completely.
Frequently Asked Questions
How quickly can I lower my cholesterol?
Your cholesterol levels may lower as quickly as a few weeks to a few months, depending on your treatment plan.
If your levels are very high, your healthcare provider may recommend taking medications at the start of your treatment plan. This may help lower your cholesterol levels more quickly. The sooner you can lower your “bad” cholesterol levels, the sooner you can lower your risk for plaques to form.
You can also lower your cholesterol through lifestyle and diet changes alone, but it may take three to six months to see results. Talk with your healthcare provider to figure out the best treatment plan for you.
Will a keto diet lower triglycerides and cholesterol?
No, keto diets have been shown to increase cholesterol levels. The Mediterranean diet, however, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiac events.
The Mediterranean diet promotes eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats daily; eating fish, poultry, beans, and eggs weekly; reducing portions of dairy; and limiting red meat.
How does fiber intake affect triglyceride and cholesterol levels?
A high fiber intake, particularly soluble fiber, helps to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Fiber also keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
How can I lower cholesterol and triglycerides if I have an underactive thyroid condition?
If you have hypothyroidism, thyroid replacement medications can help treat your thyroid condition and lower cholesterol levels.
How long does it take to lower triglycerides?
Depending on what’s causing your high triglyceride levels, you may be able to lower them in just a few days. A night out drinking or eating foods high in sugar can cause a spike in your triglyceride levels. Limiting alcohol and sugar intake can bring your levels back to normal within a few days.
If you have consistently high triglycerides, it may take a few months for them to return to a healthy range. How fast they lower depends on the lifestyle changes, diet, and medications you’re taking.
A Word From Verywell
Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are important measures of your overall health. The good news is they can both be lowered naturally. You can lower your lipid levels through regular exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, avoiding sugar, choosing healthy fats, and eating soluble fiber.
Follow up with your healthcare provider for routine blood work to monitor your lipid levels. And ask your doctor any questions about your specific health needs.