What makes my triglyceride blood level high?


I recently had a cholesterol blood test performed and I wanted to ask a few questions. First of all, my results:

  • Total cholesterol 187 milligrams per deciliter
  • Triglycerides 360 milligrams per deciliter
  • HDL cholesterol 29 milligrams per deciliter
  • LDL cholesterol 86 milligrams per deciliter

I understand that my total cholesterol below 200 is okay, HDL is low, LDL is okay, and triglycerides are high.

I exercise 5-6 times a week taking aerobics. I weigh 176 pounds, height is 5 feet 8 inches. I’ve been at a high level of exercise (1-hour aerobics + some extra time) for over 1 year, and I’ve lost 25 pounds. I lost most of the weight during the first 3 months of my current program, and have been stable at 176 pounds for many months. I have much more muscle definition now than when I started this program. I’m 38 and have done various forms of exercise most of my life.


  1. What makes the triglycerides high in the blood? I don’t believe I eat a lot of fatty foods, and I don’t drink. I also don’t drink many soft drinks. What might make my triglyceride blood level high?
  2. What can be done to improve HDL levels?

Thank you for your comments.

You are correct about your blood results and congrats on your weight loss. You have lost 14% of your body weight which has probably helped improve your blood fats.

Your cholesterol is within normal ranges which is less than 200 milligrams per deciliter. Your HDL cholesterol is low because it should be above 40 milligrams per deciliter. Your HDL should go up with exercise considering you are doing aerobic exercise almost every day, but HDL is not going up and it could be because you need to lose about 13 pounds tho that would be determined by your percent body fat. Your LDL cholesterol is within the normal range at less than 100 millimoles per liter. Your triglycerides are 360 and should be below 150 milligrams per deciliter.

Your healthy weight range for your height and age is 121 to 163 pounds. Have you had your body fat tested? If your body fat were below 18% which is normal for males, then you could weigh more than 163 pounds, but given that your HDL is low, I am guessing your body fat is higher than 18%. You say you have been at a weight plateau for many months and you need to slightly reduce your calorie intake by 250 calories per day and up your exercise by spending 250 calories per day. Try my Healthy Body Calculator® to determine a calorie goal for you if you select lose 1 or 2 pounds a week in the weight goal section.

To answer your questions:

  1. Alcohol and sugar make triglycerides go up in the blood. If you eliminate alcohol (distilled liquor, beer, wine & liqueurs) and added sugars including sugar added to processed/packaged foods, your triglycerides should go down. Triglycerides are the fat your body stores in fat cells.
  2. Continue your aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week for 1 hour per day. Have you thought about adding weight lifting (strength training) to your routine?