Triglycerides and Their Influence on Your Heart Health

Learn how Triglycerides can impact your heart health

Medical Terms used in this article

  • Lipid: Another word for fat, a type of nutrient that the body needs in small amounts. Lipids include saturated fats, unsaturated fats, and trans fats.
  • HDL cholesterol: Sometimes called the “good” cholesterol, because it returns cholesterol to the liver for removal from the body. Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all the cells of the body.
  • LDL cholesterol: Sometimes called the “bad” cholesterol because high LDL levels cause cholesterol to build up in arteries. High blood cholesterol increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease.
  • VLDL cholesterol: very-low-density lipoprotein. Your liver makes VLDL and releases it into your bloodstream. The VLDL particles mainly carry triglycerides, another type of fat, to your tissues. VLDL is similar to LDL cholesterol, but LDL mainly carries cholesterol to your tissues instead of triglycerides.

Also known as Hypertriglyceridemia, Dyslipidemia or Lipid Disorder, high blood triglycerides are high blood levels of a type of fat, or lipid, called triglycerides. Your body makes triglycerides or gets them from the foods you eat.

They are the most common type of fat in your body. They come from foods, especially butter, oils, and other fats you eat. Triglycerides also come from extra calories. These are the calories that you eat, but your body does not need right away. Your body changes these extra calories into triglycerides, and stores them in fat cells. When your body needs energy, it releases the triglycerides. Your VLDL cholesterol particles carry the triglycerides to your tissues.

Having a high level of triglycerides can raise your risk of heart diseases, such as coronary artery disease. High blood triglycerides are a type of lipid disorder, or dyslipidemia. This condition may occur on its own, with other lipid disorders such as high blood cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol, or as part of metabolic syndrome.

Certain medical conditions, genetics, lifestyle habits, and some medicines are all risk factors for high blood triglycerides. Medical conditions and other factors that may increase blood triglyceride levels include;

  • Regularly eating more calories that you burn off, especially if you eat a lot of sugar
  • Being overweight of having obesity
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Certain medicines
  • Some genetic disorders
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Poorly controlled type 2 diabetes
  • Liver or kidney diseases

Sometimes the gene you inherited can cause high blood triglyceride levels. Being physically inactive, eating foods that are high in fat and sugar, or drinking too much alcohol may increase blood triglycerides. Some medicines used to treat breast cancer, high blood pressure, HIV, and other conditions may also increase triglyceride levels in the blood.

High blood triglycerides usually do not cause any symptoms. Untreated or uncontrolled high blood triglyceride levels may increase your risk of serious complications such as coronary heart disease and stroke. Very high blood triglycerides can increase the risk of acute pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas that causes severe pain in the abdomen.

Based on your risk factors and your personal and family health histories, your doctor may recommend testing you for high blood triglycerides with a routine blood test called a lipid panel. A lipid panel measures the total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in your blood.

How are high triglycerides diagnosed?

There is a blood test that measures your triglycerides, along with your cholesterol. Triglyceride levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). The guidelines for triglyceride levels are

Your doctor may diagnose you with high blood triglycerides if your fasting blood triglyceride levels are consistently 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or higher. Normal fasting blood triglyceride levels are less than 75 mg/dL for children under the age of 10 and less than 90 mg/dL for children age 10 and older and adults.

If you are diagnosed with high blood triglycerides, your doctor may first recommend that you adopt heart-healthy lifestyle changes, such as healthy eating, which includes limiting alcohol, added sugars, and foods high in saturated or trans fats; getting regular physical activity; quitting smoking; and aiming for a healthy weight. Your doctor may also prescribe medicines such as fibrates, omega-3 fatty acids, nicotinic acid, or statins to control or lower your triglyceride levels.

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Medika Life
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