Many people know about their total cholesterol (TC) and Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) numbers. Statin drugs are aimed most commonly at reducing these two numbers. Most statin drugs do not reduce or act upon Triglycerides.
So what are triglycerides and why are they are important? First, triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food as well as in the body. They’re also present in blood plasma and, in association with cholesterol, form the plasma lipids. Triglycerides in blood plasma are derived from fats eaten in foods or made in the body from other energy sources like carbohydrates. Calories ingested in a meal and not used immediately by tissues are converted to triglycerides and transported to fat cells to be stored. Hormones regulate the release of triglycerides from fat tissue so they meet the body’s needs for energy between meals.
How is an excess of triglycerides harmful?
Excess triglycerides in plasma is called hypertriglyceridemia. It’s linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Elevated triglycerides may be a consequence of other disease, such as untreated diabetes mellitus. Like cholesterol, increases in triglyceride levels can be detected by plasma measurements. These measurements should be made after an overnight food and alcohol fast.
The National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines for triglycerides are:
- Normal = Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline-high = 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High = 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high = 500 mg/dL or higher
These are based on fasting plasma triglyceride levels.
HOWEVER, at NBH Lifetime Health, we recommend fasting triglycerides of less than 90 mg/dL. This is a more optimal level to help ensure heart health.
The most common causes of high triglycerides are obesity and poorly controlled diabetes.
If you are overweight and are not active, you may have high triglycerides, especially if you eat a lot of carbohydrate or sugary foods or drink a lot of alcohol. Binge drinking (of alcohol) can cause dangerous spikes in triglyceride levels that can trigger inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). Diet sugars can result in high triglycerides.
Other causes of high triglycerides include hypothyroidism, kidney disease, and certain inherited lipid disorders.
High triglycerides rarely occur on their own; they are usually associated with other conditions.
High triglycerides are a part of metabolic syndrome. This is a group of medical problems that increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Metabolic syndrome includes high triglycerides, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, increased blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and obesity, especially around the waist.
NBH Lifetime Health Recommendation:
- Keep your triglycerides less than 90 mg/dL.
- Limit your consumption of grains and sugars. In excess, these turn to fat, specifically, triglycerides.
- Keep your thyroid healthy.
- Exercise regularly and eat 5 to 6 helping so vegetables and fruit each day.
- Optimize and balance your hormones.
If you have any questions about your cholesterol, weight or hormones, please email your question or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By NBH, Director of Education & Research – NBH Lifetime Health Weight Loss & Hormone Clinics, Medline South