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Hypertriglyceridemia (High Triglycerides)



What is hypertriglyceridemia?

Hypertriglyceridemia may be described as an excess of triglycerides in the blood. Triglycerides are fatty substances in your blood and body that get their name from their chemical structure.

Your liver produces triglycerides. Any extra calories in your diet can be changed into triglycerides. These triglycerides may also be changed into cholesterol.

The food that you consume in your diet is either used or stored. When you eat, the fat in your food is digested, and triglycerides are released into your bloodstream. This will give you energy to perform activities, or just to perform any vital functions. The rest will be stored as fat.

Although trigylceride levels vary with age, a "normal" level is considered less than 150 mg/dL.  Normal values may vary from laboratory to laboratory.

Causes of hypertriglyceridemia may include:

  • Age - your triglyceride levels will increase with age.
  • Weight gain- People who are extremely overweight (obese), will have more calories converted into cholesterol and triglycerides. Excess calories from alcohol will also cause your liver to make more triglycerides, which in turn causes less fat to be removed from your blood stream.
  • If you have liver or kidney disease, or metabolic conditions such as hypothyroidism or diabetes, you will be placed at risk for hypertriglyceridemia.
  • Genetics - Increased triglyceride levels in the blood may be associated with certain genetic diseases or disorders, such as familial combined hyperlipidemia.
  • Medications -such as oral contraceptives, and certain steroids, may cause increased triglyceride levels
  • Elevated triglyceride levels may lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. However, there are some individuals that may never develop pancreatitis with high triglyceride levels, or some may develop pancreatitis with lower levels.
  • Your doctor or healthcare provider will diagnose your disorder by a simple blood test. You must fast for 12 hours before the blood test, as any food that you eat may affect the result.

What are some symptoms of hypertriglyceridemia to look for?

There are often times no symptoms of hypertriglyceridemia, unless you develop pancreatitis from your elevated triglyceride levels.

Things you can do about hypertriglyceridemia:

  • Exercise, avoiding alcohol, fatty foods, and restricting calories are the primary treatments for elevated blood triglyceride levels. With higher levels, triglyceride-lowering medications may be used.
  • Follow all of your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol use will further increase your triglyceride levels, and may cause interactions with medications.
  • Follow the recommended diet. A low-fat, high fiber diet may be suggested to lower triglyceride levels, and reduce your weight.
  • Reading the labels on food is helpful to know what kinds of calories, fat and protein you are taking in. Some general recommendations include:
  • Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates can be either simple (such as fruit and sugar) or complex, (such as pasta and cereals). These have a great impact on blood sugar levels, are full of calories, and can turn into fats. Your diet should include around than 50% carbohydrates. Avoid unnecessary calories from sugar if you are trying to lose weight, and instead, use artificial sweeteners, such as nutrasweet, aspartame, or saccharin. Drink diet soda.
  • Protein - your diet should consist of 15-20% protein. Avoid red meats, fatty or fried foods (like fried fish or chicken). These contain lots of fat, and unwanted calories from the fat.
  • Increase fresh vegetables and fiber intake - Up to 55 grams of fiber per day is recommended. Fiber and fresh vegetables help to decrease blood cholesterol levels, maintain regular bowel habits, cause you to feel full and may prevent certain cancers.
  • There are many types of "good and bad" fats. The easiest thing to remember is to limit your intake of saturated fats and oils.
  • Make sure you tell your doctor, as well as all healthcare providers, about any other medications you are taking (including over-the-counter, vitamins, or herbal remedies). 
  • Remind your doctor or healthcare provider if you have a history of diabetes, liver, kidney, or heart disease.
  • Keep yourself well hydrated. Drink two to three quarts of fluid every 24 hours, unless you are instructed otherwise.
  • If you experience symptoms or side effects, especially if severe, be sure to discuss them with your health care team.  They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
  • Keep all your appointments.

Drugs that may be prescribed by your doctor for hypertriglyceridemia:

If you experience high blood triglyceride levels, with or without symptoms, you doctor or healthcare provider may prescribe:

  • Gemfibrozil - This medication will decrease cholesterol levels in your blood, and decrease the production of triglycerides from your liver.
  • Nicotinic acid - Also called niacin, this will decrease blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels in high doses. This medication should not be used, if you have gout, diabetes, and problems with your heart or liver. Discuss this with your healthcare provider.

When to call your doctor or health care provider:

  • Nausea that interferes with your ability to eat, and is unrelieved by prescribed medication.
  • Diarrhea (4-6 episodes in a 24-hour period), unrelieved with taking anti-diarrhea medication and diet modification.
  • Abdominal pain, sweating, or fever (may be pancreatitis).
  • Any new rashes - if on new medications.

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Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.