Triglycerides are an important part of a lipid panel, and their levels offer important insights into your health. Triglycerides are calories converted into fat, which travels through the blood and into the cells. In between meals, your body uses stored triglycerides to stay energized, but if you consume more calories than what your body usually needs, you will also have a high level of triglycerides in your body.
What should you know to take charge of better health?
LDL vs VLDL
Your blood has two different proteins that circulate inside your bloodstream — very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). In fact, they are a combination of fats and protein that can carry triglycerides and cholesterol through your blood.
VLDL are made of 10 percent cholesterol, 10 percent protein, 10 percent other fats, and 70 percent triglycerides. What causes your VLDL levels to rise are foods very rich in sugar, or carbohydrates. Consequently, the more triglycerides your body has, the higher your VLDL levels will be.
LDL, on the other hand, has a different composition. It’s made of 10 percent triglycerides, 15 percent other fats, 26 percent cholesterol, and 25 percent protein. When you have excess cholesterol in your body, your LDL level also rises, meaning that you are at greater risk of heart disease.
A consequence of having all this bad cholesterol traveling through the bloodstream is a condition called atherosclerosis. Bad cholesterol gets attaches to the walls of your arteries, creating formations which are known as plaques. Naturally, the most plaques you have, the narrower your arteries become. This makes it very difficult for blood to flow freely, and could also lead to the formation of blood clots. In time, the sensitive plaques may be damaged and even rupture, which increases the risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
Testing LDL and VLDL levels
The LDL test can be performed as a routine medical exam, or as part of a lipid panel. A lipid panel can measure the four different factors that influence cholesterol — total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.
High-triglyceride count: What are the consequences?
As mentioned above, having a high level of triglycerides is pretty much the same as having high levels of LDL cholesterol. Here is some basic knowledge that refers to your triglycerides count:
- Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL.
- A borderline high count is one that’s found in the 150 to 199 mg/dL interval.
- High readings for triglycerides are between 200 and 499 mg/dL.
- If your triglyceride count is over 500 mg/dL, then you have very high levels.
Since atherosclerosis is one of the major consequences of having a high triglyceride count, it’s important to treat it with uttermost attention. A high level of triglycerides can also lead to an inflammation of the pancreas, which is known in the medical world and pancreatitis.
High triglycerides can also be considered a marker for an underlying medical condition, such as metabolic syndrome. It is sometimes a sign of obesity, as well. In fact, you can consider a high level of triglycerides as a potential warning sign for any of the following conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes (since triglyceride levels rise due to ingesting high amounts of sugar).
- Hypothyroidism (which is characterized by low levels of thyroid hormones).
- Genetic conditions that change the normal pattern the body has of converting fat to energy.
Furthermore, a high triglyceride count can also be caused by different types of medications, such as immunosuppressants, beta blockers, retinoids, steroids, estrogen, or diuretics.
Lowering triglyceride levels
Since cholesterol levels can be kept under control and lowered whenever they reach alarming levels, so can triglycerides. In fact, the best way to do so is to follow the same recommendations as those given for overall high cholesterol problems:
- Regular exercises help keep the body healthy, and this is particularly important when you’re consuming a lot of dangerous fats. Not only does physical activity lower bad cholesterol levels, it also lower triglycerides count.
- Triglycerides quickly form as a consequence of eating carbohydrates or sugar, so consider consuming such foods as rarely as possible.
- Since triglycerides are also excess calories, cutting down your daily calorie intake does a long way in keeping this situation under control.
For those with skyrocketing triglyceride levels, doctors may also choose to prescribe medication. These medications range from statins, niacin, fibrates, or omega-3 fatty acids. It’s wrong to assume that just because you have been prescribed a medication treatment, lifestyle changes are not important. In fact, lifestyle changes will always trump the need for taking medication, so consider healthy living as the best long-term solution possible.
Every adult over the age of 21 should have their cholesterol tested at least once every five years. By identifying potential increases in one’s total cholesterol levels, doctors can suggest immediate action that could prevent a fatal situation, such as heart disease or stroke.
The main difference between the two lipoproteins known as LDL and VLDL is their composition, but that doesn’t mean they can’t influence one another. In order to prevent triglycerides levels from potentially leading to heart disease, it’s important to consider what lifestyle changes you can make effective immediately, but also follow the course of your medical treatment, if your doctor chooses to prescribe one to you.