Februari 21, 2008
Geri Metzger wrote: What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. They are a major source of energy and the most common type of fat in your body.
When you eat, your body uses the calories it needs for quick energy. Any extra calories are turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells to be used later. The excess calories are stored as fat regardless of what kind of food you eat—fat, carbohydrate, or protein. If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, you may have high triglycerides.
In normal amounts, triglycerides are important to good health. When triglyceride levels are high, it is not clear whether these high levels directly increase your risk for heart disease. But high triglycerides are often part of a group of conditions called metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is the combination of increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess weight, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides. This syndrome does increase your risk for heart disease as well as for diabetes and stroke.
Triglycerides are measured as part of a blood test that measures your cholesterol. Normal triglyceride levels are below 150. Levels above 200 are high.
What causes high triglycerides?
Obesity, poorly controlled diabetes, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), kidney disease, and regularly eating more calories than you burn can cause high triglycerides.
Certain medicines may also increase triglycerides. These include tamoxifen, steroids, beta-blockers, some diuretics, estrogen, and birth control pills. Drinking a lot of alcohol may also cause high triglycerides.
Certain types of high cholesterol and high triglycerides run in families.
What are the symptoms?
High triglycerides do not usually cause symptoms. People who have a family history (genetic cause) of very high triglycerides may have visible fatty deposits under the skin called xanthomas.
In rare cases, people who have very high triglycerides may develop inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). This can cause sudden, severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and fever.
How can I lower my high triglycerides?
You may be able to lower your triglycerides by eating fewer calories and increasing your activity. Reducing fats in your diet and not drinking alcohol may also help.
If increasing your activity and watching calories do not work, you may also need medicine. Medicines called statins are commonly used to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. But drugs called nicotinic acids and fibrates seem to work better for lowering triglycerides. If you have high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, it may help you to take a combination of medicines, such as a statin and a fibrate.