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Cardiac Rehabilitation

Triglycerides and Your Heart

09/26/2006

Question:

How exactly does your triglycerides affect your heart?

Answer:

While high triglyceride levels have been associated with heart disease, no study has yet proven that high triglyceride levels are an independent risk factor for heart disease. So doctors don't have the evidence they need to recommend aggressive triglyceride-lowering therapy.

Patients with elevated triglyceride levels almost always have other major risk factors for heart disease (mainly obesity, diabetes, and/or high blood pressure), and so far it has not been possible to sort out whether the triglycerides themselves pose an independent risk.

Also, whenever triglycerides are increased, HDL (good) cholesterol decreases.

The latest guidelines (May, 2001) recommend treating patients who have elevated triglyceride levels. This recommendation is based on recent analyses strongly suggesting that triglycerides are an independent risk factor for coronary artery disease. The decision to treat is generally based on the triglyceride levels themselves.

Normal triglyceride levels are less than 150 mg/dL. Borderline high levels are 150-199 mg/dl. High levels are 200 - 499 mg/dL, and very high triglyceride levels are greater than 500 mg/dL. For people with borderline or high triglyceride levels, treatment should emphasize weight reduction and exercise. Drugs are recommended for people with very high triglyceride levels. Most people who need treatment for high triglyceride levels have metabolic syndrome X.

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Response by:

Karen   Kutoloski, DO Karen Kutoloski, DO
Assistant Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University