While both these fats are important to your body’s function, too much of either (or both) can cause serious health conditions.

Heart health is a vital part of overall health, and your levels of cholesterol and triglycerides are an important part of your heart health.

These two fats are made in your body and found in the food you eat. You need both cholesterol and triglyceride for important daily body functions such as digestion and cell building. However, too much of either substance can damage your arteries and lead to heart conditions.

Although it’s common to think of these heart-related levels together, triglycerides and cholesterol aren’t the same. It’s possible for both to be high, both to be healthy, or for one to be in the healthy range while the other is high. This is because they can be caused by, and lowered by different factors.

Triglycerides and cholesterol are both types of lipids that circulate in your blood. Your body uses them in different ways.

Cholesterol is found in your blood and the food you eat. It helps build cells with some hormones. It’s made in your liver, and your body needs it to digest food and absorb fat. When too much cholesterol builds up inside your arteries, it’s called plaque.

Triglycerides are found in your body and in the food you eat. When you eat, the excess calories you don’t use right away are converted into triglycerides for use later. Most triglycerides are stored in fat cells and deposited beneath your skin, but some circulate around your internal organs. Excessive triglycerides can thicken or harden your artery walls.

Your body needs both cholesterol and triglycerides to perform daily functions. However, high levels of either can pose serious risks to your health.

A 2020 study found that high triglycerides were associated with an increased all-cause mortality rate. More research is needed into the exact reasons this might be, but it’s known that high triglyceride levels are linked to an increased risk of stroke and inflammation of the pancreas, along with other serious health conditions.

High cholesterol can build up in the arteries and cause a condition called atherosclerosis. This condition restricts blood flow and can lead to heart attack and stroke. A 2018 study found that having high cholesterol early in life was associated with a higher risk of cardiac-related death, even in people who had no other cardiac risk factors.

Both high triglycerides and high cholesterol can affect the health of your heart. High cholesterol levels can lead to:

Like high cholesterol, high triglyceride can lead to many serious health conditions like:

There are medications that can help reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but often, making lifestyle changes can be enough to stay in a healthy range.

You can reduce triglycerides by:

You can reduce cholesterol by:

  • Quitting smoking: Smoking and high cholesterol are linked.
  • Achieving or maintaining a moderate body weight: Obesity is linked with high cholesterol.
  • Choosing low cholesterol options: This includes food such as lean meats, fish, beans, and low fat dairy.
  • Eating more fruit and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy and can reduce cholesterol.

Cholesterol and triglycerides are both fats that circulate in your body and that are important for healthy body function. Too much of either fat is dangerous for your heart for your overall health.

Although the two are very similar, there are differences. Cholesterol is vital for body functions such as fat absorption, cell building, and hormone production. Triglycerides are used to store the excess calories from the food you eat so that your body can use them for energy later.

Making lifestyle changes such as eating heart-healthy foods, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and increasing exercise can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.