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What are triglycerides?

 Jill Klemin, MD
Jill Klemin, MD
Your body releases triglycerides between meals to provide you with energy. These triglycerides are a type of fat, or lipid, in your blood. When your body gets more calories than it needs, it converts those calories into triglycerides and they are stored in your fat cells until your body calls for them. But if your levels of triglycerides become too high, you are at risk for developing artery-related conditions that increase your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

How do triglycerides get too high?

People at higher risk are those who routinely eat more calories than they burn, especially carbohydrate and fat calories. People with hypothyroidism, diabetes and kidney problems are more likely to have elevated triglycerides. If you have family members with cholesterol or heart-related problems, you also are at higher risk.

Are high triglycerides and high cholesterol the same?

Triglycerides and cholesterol do have similarities. Both circulate in your body and donít dissolve in the blood. But they are different types of lipids. While triglycerides provide your body with energy, cholesterol builds cells.

How do I avoid elevated triglycerides and cholesterol?

Lifestyle choices make a huge difference in lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Remember that extra calories contribute to storage of triglycerides so itís important to reduce your calories and stay at a healthy weight. Even a loss of only 5 to 10 pounds can lower high levels. Limit your sugar consumption, including alcohol, which is high in sugars. Choose plant-based fats, such as olive and peanut oils. Donít consume trans fats. Limit foods that are high in concentrated cholesterol, such as whole milks and red meats. Strive to be more active; shoot for 30 minutes of activity daily.

Should I be tested for high triglycerides?

Beginning at 40, you should schedule an annual physical examination with your primary care doctor. If you are at higher risk for elevated triglycerides and cholesterol, begin annual exams now. Itís important to treat high triglycerides early before they lead to more serious conditions, such as a possible stroke or heart disease. Your primary care doctor will order a simple blood test (also known as a lipid panel) that will determine if you have high triglycerides.

Jill Klemin, MD is a family medicine physician at Sanford North Clinic. She received her medical degree at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand Forks, and completed her residency at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Grand forks.


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