Triglycerides: why are they important?

Triglycerides are a relevant measure of heart health, learn their importance and what to do if they are too high.

Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in the blood. Photo: Shutterstock.

If you have been monitoring your blood pressure and cholesterolthere is something else you may need to control: the triglycerides. Having a high level in your blood can increase your risk of heart disease. But the same lifestyle choices that promote overall health can also help reduce them.

What are they?

The triglycerides they are a type of fat (lipid) found in the blood.

When you eat, your body converts any calories that you don’t need to use right away into triglycerides. The triglycerides are stored in cells fats. Hormones later release triglycerides for energy between meals.

If you regularly eat more calories than you burn, particularly from high-carbohydrate foods, you may have the triglycerides high (hypertriglyceridemia).

What is considered normal?

A simple blood test can reveal whether triglycerides are within a healthy range:

  • Normal: less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), or less than 1.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/l)

  • Limit: 150 to 199 mg/dl (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/l)

  • High: 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L)

  • Very high: 500 mg/dl or more (5.7 mmol/l or more)

The doctor usually checks for the presence of triglycerides high as part of an exam cholesterol, which is sometimes called a lipid panel or lipid profile. You will need to fast before the blood draw to get an accurate measurement of the triglycerides.

What is the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol?

There are different types of lipids that circulate in the blood:

Why are high triglyceride levels important?

The triglycerides High levels can contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of artery walls (atherosclerosis), which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. The triglycerides extremely high levels can also cause acute inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).

They are often a sign of other conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, including obesity and metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions including too much fat around the waist, high blood pressure, triglycerides high blood sugar, hyperglycemia, and abnormal levels of cholesterol.

The triglycerides Highs can also be a sign of:

  • Type 2 diabetes or prediabetes

  • Metabolic syndrome: a condition in which high blood pressure, obesity, and high blood sugar occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease

  • Low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism)

  • Certain rare genetic conditions that affect the way the body turns fat into energy

Sometimes the triglycerides Highs are a side effect of taking certain medications, such as the following:

What is the best way to lower triglycerides?

Choosing a healthy lifestyle is key:

  • Exercise regularly. Try to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity most or all days of the week. Regular exercise can reduce triglycerides and increase the cholesterol “well”. Try to incorporate more physical activity into your daily tasks, for example, walking up the stairs at work or taking a walk during breaks.

  • Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar and foods made with white flour or fructose, can increase triglycerides.

  • I lost weight. If you have mild to moderate hypertriglyceridemia, cut back on calories. The extra calories turn into triglycerides and are stored as fat. By reducing calories, you reduce triglycerides.

  • Choose healthier fats. Replace the fats saturated found in meats by fats healthier oils found in plants, such as olive and rapeseed (canola) oils. Instead of red meat, try fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel or salmon. Avoid the fats trans and foods with oils or fats hydrogenated.

  • Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, and has a particularly strong effect on triglycerides. If you have severe hypertriglyceridemia, avoid drinking alcohol.

What about the medications?

If healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to control your triglycerides high, your doctor might recommend the following:

  • Statins. These drugs to reduce cholesterol may be recommended if you also have elevated levels of cholesterol or a history of blocked arteries or diabetes. Examples of statins include atorvastatin calcium (Lipitor) and rosuvastatin calcium (Crestor).

  • Fibrates. Fibrates, such as fenofibrate (TriCor, Fenoglide, others) and gemfibrozil (Lopid), can lower levels of triglycerides. Do not use fibrates if you have severe kidney or liver disease.

  • Fish oil. Also known as omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil can help reduce triglycerides. Prescription fish oil preparations, such as Lovaza, contain more active fatty acids than many over-the-counter supplements. If used at high levels, fish oil can affect blood clotting, so check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

  • Niacin. Niacin, sometimes called nicotinic acid, can reduce triglycerides and the cholesterol of low-density lipoproteins (LDL), the cholesterol “evil”.

If your doctor prescribes medications to reduce triglycerides, take them as prescribed. And remember the importance of the healthy changes she has made in his lifestyle. Medicines can help, but lifestyle is also important.

Source consulted here.

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