Hypertriglyceridemia, and the Metabolic Syndrome

Diabetes Lab Tests, High Cholesterol

hypertriglyceridemia is defined as triglycerides over 150 mg/dl

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Treating your cholesterol can reduce your chances of having a heart attack. But what about triglycerides? Are they the same thing as cholesterol? The simple answer is no but is more complicated than that. Triglycerides are one of many items on the blood tests your doctor checks as part of your yearly physical.  They appear in your lipid panel. 

The typical lipid panel includes:

  • Total Cholesterol

    This test combines both your good and bad cholesterols into one number.

  • L.D.L. (low density lipoprotein) and H.D.L. (high density lipoprotein)

    These are the two different forms of cholesterol. LDL is the bad form and HDL is the good form. An easy way to remember is “LDL”, should be “LOW”, and “HDL”, should be “HIGH”.

  • Triglycerides

    The form the body uses to store and transport “fat”. They are found in fat cells (adipocytes) and in the blood bound together with proteins.

Triglyceride levels are considered normal when they are under 149 mg/dl. “Borderline” levels are considered 150-200mg/dl. High triglycerides, a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia, are levels over 200mg/dl. “Very high” triglycerides levels are considered those over 500mg/dl.

Doctors treat your cholesterol to lower your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke. But unlike cholesterol, there is little scientific evidence that treating high triglycerides lowers this risk.  When triglycerides do become a cardiac risk is when they are a part of what is known as the “metabolic syndrome.”

What is the Metabolic Syndrome?

The metabolic syndrome is the combination of hypertriglyceridemia, insulin resistance, hypertension, a low good cholesterol (HDL), and obesity. 

Reason for high triglycerides:

Triglycerides are a marker of your overall “metabolic” health. They tend to go up as a result of a bad diet. Eating poorly also causes diabetes and weight problems. What to do for high triglycerides? If your triglyceride level is high, you should focus on a low-fat diet, exercise, weight loss and treating your diabetes and high cholesterol before considering any medication for triglycerides.

What do high triglycerides cause?

One reason why you should try to lower your triglyceride level is to avoid pancreatitis. When triglycerides rise over 500 mg/dl, they can cause this dangerous inflammation of your pancreas. This level of hypertriglyceridemia should be treated aggressively with both diet and medication.

About the Author
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Jose Taveras M.D. F.A.C.C.

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Dr Taveras works as a cardiologist caring for spanish speaking communities in the Bronx. He completed a dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics and then served as chief resident of internal medicine at the St. Vincent’s Catholic Medical Center of New York. He went on to specialize in cardiovascular disease at NYU Winthrop Hospital , under the mentorship of Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of Cardiology at Winthrop. He is board certified in both internal medicine and cardiovascular diseases, and sub specializes in echocardiography, nuclear cardiology and computed tomography of the heart. Apart from his work in community outreach, Dr. Taveras' career focuses on innovation and technology. Dr. Taveras is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. 

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Last Modified: Sep 17, 2018 @ 5:53 pm

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