What causes high blood triglycerides (hypertriglyceridemia)? Many things. These include: being overweight, high blood glucose levels, underactive thyroid, and kidney disease. Some people have high triglycerides because of their food choices—eating too many refined carbohydrate foods (such as cakes, candy, and cookies) can boost triglycerides. Frequent imbibers of alcohol may also have high levels. Even some medicines can raise levels, such as steroids, beta-blockers, tamoxifen, estrogen, and birth control pills. And, just like high cholesterol, high triglycerides can run in the family.
Why are high triglycerides a concern? The main concern with high triglycerides is heart disease. There appears to be a link between high triglycerides and hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. High levels of this blood fat can point to other medical problems, such as kidney or liver disease, poorly controlled diabetes, and thyroid issues. Very high triglyceride levels can lead to pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, a serious and painful condition.
How are triglycerides measured? Triglycerides are measured by a simple blood test, usually as part of the lipid profile, which also measures total, HDL ("good") and LDL cholesterol. Because triglyceride levels fluctuate in response to food intake, for the most accurate reading, you shouldn't eat or drink anything (except for water) for 12–14 hours before the test.
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