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Definition  

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and in the body When triglyceride levels are high, it can result in coronary artery disease and stroke.

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Causes  

Causes may include:

  • Excess triglyceride production in the body
  • Excess ingestion of triglycerides from food sources
  • Kidney problems
  • Liver disease
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Risk Factors  

Facters that may increase your risk of high triglycerides include:

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Symptoms  

High triglyceride levels usually do not cause symptoms. Very high levels of triglycerides can cause:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting—associated with acute pancreatitis

Elevated triglyceride levels can increase your risk of atherosclerosis . This is a dangerous hardening of the arteries. It can end up blocking blood flow. In some cases, this may result in:

Blood Vessel with Atherosclerosis  
Atherosclerosis

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Diagnosis  

This condition is diagnosed with blood tests. These tests measure the levels of triglycerides in the blood. The National Cholesterol Education Program advises that you have your lipids checked at least once every five 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 hyperlipidemia or significant obesity.

Triglycerides may be part of a fasting lipid profile blood test including:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Triglycerides

Your doctor may recommend more frequent or earlier testing if you have a:

  • Family history of hyperlipidemia
  • Risk factor or disease that may cause hyperlipidemia
  • Complication that may result from hyperlipidemia
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Treatment  

Treatment is not only aimed at correcting your triglyceride levels, but also at lowering your overall risk for heart disease and stroke.

Diet Changes  

Lifestyle Changes  

  • Maintain a healthy weight .
  • If you smoke, talk to your doctor about ways to quit .
  • Exercise regularly . Talk to you doctor before starting an exercise program.
  • Make sure other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, are being treated and controlled.

Medications  

There are a number of drugs available, such as statins , to treat this condition and help lower your risk for heart disease. Statins have been shown to reduce death, heart attacks , 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.

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Prevention  

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 and one drink per day for women.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Talk with your doctor first.
  • If you have diabetes , control your blood sugar.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications you are taking. Some may have side effects that cause high triglyceride levels .