Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and in the body
When triglyceride levels are high, it can be associated with coronary artery disease and stroke.
Causes may include: Excess triglyceride production in the body, usually related to geneticsExcess ingestion of triglycerides from food sourcesKidney problemsLiver disease
It is more common for older adults, especially men, to have high triglycerides. Facters that may increase your risk of high triglycerides include: A family history of hyperlipidemiaA diet high in
saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterolPostmenopause in womenLack of exerciseObesitySmokingExcess alcohol intake
Certain conditions, including:
DiabetesLow thyroidCushing's syndromeCertain medications, such as birth control pills and isotretinoin, which is used to treat acne
High triglyceride levels
not cause symptoms. Very high levels of
triglycerides can cause: Abdominal painNausea and vomiting—associated with acute pancreatitis
Elevated triglyceride levels
can increase your risk of
This is a dangerous hardening of the arteries. It can end up blocking blood flow. In some cases, this may result in:
AnginaHeart attackStrokeOther serious complications
Blood Vessel with Atherosclerosis
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This condition is diagnosed with blood tests. These tests measure the levels of
in the blood. The National Cholesterol Education Program advises that you have your lipids checked at least once every 5 years, starting at age 20. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends lipid screening for children at risk, such as those with
a family history of
or significant obesity starting between 2 to 8 years old. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends routine screening at 9 to 11 years old and again at 17 to 12 years old.
of a fasting
blood test including: Total cholesterolLDL (bad cholesterol)HDL (good cholesterol)Triglycerides
Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier testing if you have a: Family history of hyperlipidemiaRisk factor or disease that may cause hyperlipidemiaComplication that may result from hyperlipidemia
Treatment is not only aimed at correcting triglyceride
levels, but also at lowering the overall risk for heart disease and stroke.
Lifestyle changes that can help lower triglyceride levels include:
Maintaining a healthy
weightTalking to a doctor about ways to
quit smokingExercising regularlyTreating and controlling other medical conditions
There are a number of drugs available, such as
, to treat this condition and help lower the risk for heart disease.
have been shown to reduce
, and stroke in patients with high triglycerides. Talk to your doctor about whether these medications are right for you.
These medications are best used as additions to diet and exercise and should not replace healthy lifestyle changes.
To help reduce your chance of getting hyperlipidemia, take the following steps: Have cholesterol tests starting at age 20—or younger if you have risk factors.Eat a diet low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.Drink alcohol in moderation—two drinks per day for men
one drink per day for women.Maintain a healthy weight.Exercise regularly. Talk with your doctor first.
If you have
, control your blood sugar.
Talk to your doctor about medications you are taking. Some may have side effects that cause
high triglyceride levels
Side effects of anti-HIV medications. National Institutes of Health website. Available at:
http://aidsinfo.nih.gov/contentfiles/SideEffectAnitHIVMeds_cbrochure_en.pdf. Published October 2005. Accessed March 2, 2016.
What your cholesterol levels mean. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/What-Your-Cholesterol-Levels-Mean_UCM_305562_Article.jsp. Updated October 19, 2015. Accessed March 2, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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