Many scientific studies have shown that triglycerides present more of a danger than we had previously thought. A large body of evidence has concluded that high triglycerides levels in the blood appear to be a strong and independent predictor of coronary heart disease for men and women, especially when the total cholesterol of the person is elevated.
What are triglycerides?
The word “triglycerides” may sound strange to you (it did to me when I first heard of the term) but it is just the scientific name given to fat; that’s all. I guess scientists take special pleasure in complicating our lives with nouns like this one.
How triglycerides form in your body?
The production of triglycerides in your body comes from two main sources:
1. Your liver
2. The foods you eat.
After you eat, a physiological process takes place in your body by which your organism increases the level of triglycerides in order to:
Provide energy to your muscles
Storage the triglycerides in your fat cells, especially around your waist.
How high is high?
Although the level of triglycerides changes with age, a “normal” level is considered to be below 150 mg/dl. The level of triglycerides is measured through a blood test in the morning after 12 hours of not having any food or liquids. The values below are given in mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter).
Normal: less than 150
Borderline high: 150 to 199
High: 200 to 499
Very high: 500 or higher
Main causes of high levels of triglycerides
- Age. Triglyceride levels go up with age.
- Overweight. This means more calories are converted into triglycerides.
- Alcohol. Alcohol makes the liver produce more triglycerides.
- Liver and kidney diseases, hypothyroidism and diabetes increase triglycerides.
- Genetics. High triglycerides can be associated with certain genetic conditions.
- Medications such as steroids and contraceptives.
Symptoms and consequences of high triglycerides
Usually, high triglycerides do not present symptoms unless their level is quite high in which case they could cause inflammation in the pancreas, a condition known as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is characterized by a strong pain in the abdomen. High level of triglycerides can also promote lesions in the coronary arteries, the arteries that wrap around your heart, thus increasing the risk for heart attacks.
If you ingest too many calories you are causing your body not only to storage some in your fat cells, but to produce substances that trigger the production of triglycerides. As a result, your cells become insulin resistant, triglycerides piled up in the blood vessels, and the level of good cholesterol, HDL, goes down.
Recommendations for high triglycerides
It is important to remember that although high triglycerides may not present symptoms, they are associated with abdominal obesity thus promoting diabetes type 2 and cardiovascular disease. The most important thing to do is to follow a healthy lifestyle. Here are some guidelines that may help you to do so:
- Be physically active. It is recommended to do some type of exercise at least 30 minutes every day, five days a week. Brisk walking would be perfect.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol increases triglyceride levels and can cause interaction with other medications.
- Decrease your intake of saturated fats, trans fats.
- Eat more foods that are high in fiber.
- Always read food labels. This practice would allow you to know how many calories, fat, and proteins you are ingesting.
If your last blood test shows high levels of triglycerides, you must assume that your lifestyle is not too healthy. Make the necessary changes to correct your eating habits or the condition will get worse. Doing nothing or doing it half way is not an option because you will lying the foundation for cardiovascular disease.