Understanding Triglycerides And Its Level - Manipal Hospital
Health Conditions Related to High Triglycerides
When you’re first diagnosed with having high triglycerides, you might be tempted to write it off as nothing more than a number, especially if you don’t have any symptoms. But that number is a warning — if you don’t take action to address high triglycerides, you may be putting yourself at risk for even more serious health issues.
The first step to taking charge of high triglycerides is knowing your numbers:
- 150 to 199 mg/dL is borderline high
- 200 to 499 mg/dL is high
- 500 and over is very high
High triglycerides mean that there is a high level of fat particles floating in your bloodstream or stored in fat cells. Your body needs triglycerides for energy, but high levels can be dangerous.
Research indicates that triglycerides can play a role in all forms of atherosclerosis — coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack — just as cholesterol can. Very high triglyceride levels can do damage to the pancreas and even cause skin disorders.
High Triglyceride Levels and Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis refers to the buildup of plaque in the arteries that can eventually lead to more serious heart problems. Experts have known for years that low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol plays a major role in plaque buildup, but the role of triglycerides in this process seemed unclear.
However, a recent study that looked at newer data showed that triglyceride-rich lipoproteins do indeed play a role in the plaque buildup that occurs during atherosclerosis. This means that triglyceride levels should be treated as seriously as LDL cholesterol levels, and doctors are paying more attention to this factor.
High Triglyceride Levels and Coronary Artery Disease
When plaque is allowed to build up over time in the heart vessels, the condition that results is known as coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD restricts blood flow to the heart and other vital organs. The plaque also makes it more likely that a blood clot can form and further block the artery.
A number of dangerous and potentially life-threatening conditions can result from coronary artery disease. The restriction of blood flow can ultimately lead to a heart attack or angina. Other possibilities include heart failure and heart arrhythmia.
High Triglyceride Levels and Pancreatitis
Though the role of high triglyceride levels in atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease is still a little murky, there is another condition for which the risks are crystal clear. “If you have very high triglycerides, your biggest risk is pancreatitis,” says Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, director of Women and Heart Disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an AHA spokesperson. “The high triglyceride levels overtax the pancreas and inhibit its function.”
Pancreatitis is a very painful, sometimes life-threatening, condition that affects the gland known as the pancreas. The pain is often caused by gallstones passing through the common bile duct. Researchers theorize that about 1 to 4 percent of acute pancreatitis episodes are caused by high triglycerides, and more than half of pancreatitis cases that occur during pregnancy are triggered by high triglyceride levels.
To cause pancreatitis, triglyceride levels typically have to be in the very high range — above 500 mg/dL and perhaps even closer to 1,000 mg/dL. At these levels, the triglycerides seem to cause damage when they are broken down by enzymes in the pancreas.
High Triglyceride Levels and Skin Disorders
When triglyceride levels are very high, they can also result in an uncomfortable skin condition known as eruptive xanthomas, says Akshay Khandelwal, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. This looks like a bumpy rash that is yellow in color and surrounded by a halo. The rash often appears on the buttocks or around the knees, elbows, and armpits.
Eruptive xanthomas are rare and typically related to triglyceride levels much higher than 1,000 mg/dL, but several cases of people with this condition have been reported in recent years.
Over time, the overabundance of triglycerides can do significant damage.
Video: Understanding Triglycerides | Nucleus Health
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