Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that is measured as part of a lipid panel along with cholesterol.
"When you eat, some of the calories you consume are used for energy and others are converted to triglycerides and stored," said Tara Dall, M.D., a primary care physician who specializes in clinical lipidology. "Triglycerides are released between meals when you need energy. Triglyceride levels are important to track because if they get too high, it can cause health problems."
Triglyceride levels are considered very high when they are greater than or equal to 500 mg/dL. A recent report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) revealed that an estimated 3.8 million Americans have very high triglycerides, a serious condition.
People with very high triglycerides alone do not usually have symptoms. You could have very high triglycerides and not even know it. That's why it is important to be aware of your triglyceride number. It's also important to know the risk factors of very high triglycerides.
"Those with other health problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity or type 2 diabetes, are at increased risk and should consider talking to their doctor about their triglyceride levels," said Dr. Dall.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests lowering triglyceride levels by exercising and eating a healthy diet, including increasing consumption of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing consumption of meats high in saturated fats. Some people with very high triglycerides may need medication in addition to lifestyle changes. Partner with your doctor on a plan that is best for you. This may include a prescription medication called LOVAZA, which is made from omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are "good fats" that contain natural substances your body needs but can't produce on its own. These "good fats" are found naturally in some plants and in the oil of certain fish like salmon and mackerel. LOVAZA is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, along with a healthy diet, to lower very high triglycerides.
As a national reporter recently wrote, "If you didn't know about triglycerides, you have plenty of company." If you have very high triglycerides, there are steps you can take. Your doctor will recommend what is best for you. For more information about triglycerides, visit www.webmd.com/triglycerides.
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