(CMR) There are many discussions about diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure, but not much is said about triglycerides.
We have all heard that high cholesterol can be bad for your heart. But, according to Everyday Health, there’s a lesser-known player that is equally important to heart health: triglycerides. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are fats found in the blood, and when levels get too high, they can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body, most of which comes from the foods you eat, but your body can also make triglycerides. When you eat, your body turns extra calories it doesn’t need into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells to be used later for energy.
Here are some facts about triglyceride according to Everyday Health:
Your diet has a major impact on your triglyceride levels. High triglycerides is usually caused by a high-fat diet and excessive alcohol intake. People with high triglycerides drink alcohol only in moderation or, in some cases, not at all. According to Mayo Clinic, alcohol can have a powerful effect on triglycerides because it is high in calories and sugar.
But you can have a healthy lifestyle and still have high triglycerides. Much like cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels can be lowered through a healthy lifestyle, including a nutritious diet and regular exercise. Even this may not be enough to get you in a healthy range, though, if you have a genetic predisposition to high triglycerides. The liver can overproduce triglycerides, requiring drug therapy.
Above-normal triglyceride levels can raise the risk of heart disease. High triglycerides may contribute to the hardening of the arteries or the thickening of arterial walls. “There is a growing body of evidence to support the fact that triglyceride elevations associate with cardiovascular disease risk, independent of ‘bad’ cholesterol levels,” says Michael Wesley Milks, MD, a cardiologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
Diabetes can impact triglyceride levels. High triglycerides can be tied to high blood sugar. “Triglyceride and blood sugar elevations are associated with metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Milks says. Having three or more conditions out of a group of five — high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides — that occur together is called metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
High triglycerides can be a sign of other health issues. According to Milks, high triglycerides can be linked to obesity, low thyroid hormone, and liver or kidney problems, such as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease — a leading cause of liver failure.
Certain medications can raise your triglyceride levels. Some birth control pills, steroids, HIV medications, and beta-blockers can also increase your triglyceride level.
High triglycerides can harm more than your heart. A study published in January 2020 in the European Heart Journal indicates that triglycerides can play a role in all types of conditions associated with atherosclerosis — coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack — just as cholesterol can. The study also stated that very high triglyceride levels could damage the pancreas and, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, even cause skin disorders.
Your triglyceride levels can be easily checked by your doctor using a simple blood test, and lifestyle changes can make a big difference.