Optimizing Your Triglycerides

IMAGE Many authorities advise more aggressive treatment of high triglycerides. Here is a rundown on these blood fats and why improving them is important for your health.

What Are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are the chemical form most fats take in the body. They have a backbone consisting of a glycerol molecule to which three fatty acid molecules are attached. All glycerol molecules are the same, but the fatty acids may vary greatly. The types of fatty acids that are attached to the triglyceride determine whether it is a saturated, trans, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fat. These triglycerides come from fats in the foods you eat or they are made from other energy sources, like carbohydrates. When you eat a meal, the calories your body isn't using right away are converted into triglycerides and stored in your body's fat cells. When your body needs energy between meals, triglycerides are released from fat tissue to be used for making energy.

Importance for Health

Having too much triglyceride in your blood can adversely affect your health in several ways. Extremely high triglyceride levels can trigger an attack of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, an abdominal organ that secretes digestive enzymes. Research has also identified high triglycerides as an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, stroke, or hardening of the arteries. Though the data are not as well established as for high cholesterol, it's a huge issue since coronary heart disease causes nearly 600,000 deaths each year and is the leading cause of death in the US.

Desirable Range

After you have gotten the results from a fasting blood fat profile, you can compare your triglyceride score with what experts have to say about these values:
Triglyceride Level
(milligrams/deciliter [mg/d])
less than 150 Normal
150-199 Borderline high
200-499 High
500and greater Very high

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