What are Triglycerides?

By  , Expert Content
Jul 11, 2011

Triglycerides are a type of lipid present in the blood. It is related to cholesterol but both are considered to be different types of fats. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are found together in your bloodstream. Your liver uses triglycerides as fuel to make cholesterol.

As they are related andcholesterol is synthesized from triglycerides (TGLs), it is likely that if your triglycerides levels are high your blood cholesterol levels will be high as well, but there can be exceptions.

Triglycerides are essential for life ----they provide fuel needed for body cells to function. The calories from your food that are not immediately used are converted to triglycerides and stored in your fat cells. In between meals TGLs are broken down to release energy. If your calorie intake is higher than your requirement you may have high triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia). Remember that excess calories even if derived from carbohydrates and proteins are converted to fats.

Both cholesterol and triglyceridescoexist in animal fat but cholesterol is not found in fats and oils derived from plants.

Triglycerides are found in:

    * Body fat—it is stored in peripheral adipocytes or fat cells
    * Food  such as butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish, and some
    * Dairy products such as milk, butter, and cheese.

Why do they matter

Your blood TGLs levels are important as they may contribute to hardening of your arteries or artery walls (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis is known to increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease. However the exact mechanism by which TGLs lead to atherosclerosis is not known.

High triglycerides are often present in certain other conditions such as obesity and metabolic syndrome ----which are known to increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other conditions which can increase your blood triglycerides levels include:

    * Poorly controlled type 2 diabetes,
    * Low levels of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism),
    * Liver or kidney disease, or
    * Some genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy.
    * Certain medications such as beta blockers, birth control pills, diuretics, steroids, tamoxifen (a drug for breast cancer).

Whats considered normal

Blood test is done to check your triglycerides levels. The test can specify if your triglycerides fall into a healthy range.

    * Normal: TGLs levels less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or less than 1.7 millimoles per L (mmol/L)
    * Borderline high: TGLs level 150 to 199 mg/dL (1.8 to 2.2 mmol/L)
    * High: TGLs level 200 to 499 mg/dL (2.3 to 5.6 mmol/L)
    * Very high: TGLs level > 500 mg/dL (>5.7 mmol/L)

TGLs levels are checked as a part of a cholesterol test (sometimes called a lipid panel or lipid profile). Blood sample is taken after a fast of nine to 12 hours for an accurate triglyceride measurement.

What numbers should you aim for

You should aim to maintain blood triglyceride levelsbetween 70 mg/dL and 100 mg/dL, (0.8 - 1.1 mmol/L). This level is most optimal forcardiovascular health. The average triglyceride level in most people is much higher than 100 mg/dL (1.1 mmol/L). Below this level the risk of heart disease is significantly decreased.

Blood triglycerid...

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