Triglycerides (sp?) - how dangerous

My mom, on her way out this mourning, just tells me really quickly this mourning that her triglycerides are up to 600 and they are supposed to be around 200. Now I have no idea what this means, but she certainly did what should could to get me worried.
So what does this mean? what are triglycerides?

Ooopps, sorry for the redundency (sp?). Try to mentally remove one of the “this mourning”'s if you need to.
Mods, if you want to fix it, I give you liscense.

Triglycerides are a type of blood fat that are tranported in the body along side of cholesterol. So, often, triglyceride and cholesterol problems co-exist.

Triglycerides do not directly contribute to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). However, they are a marker, or sign, of higher risk of atherosclerosis. This may be because high triglcyerides are ass’d with diabetes, obesity, and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL), which themseleves contribute to atherosclerosis. It is not known whether lowering triglyceride by itself, in the absence of other interventions, prevents atherosclerosis.

Very high levels of triglyceride (in the 1000’s) are ass’d with a serious condition called pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). Lowering triglycerides from such ultra-high levels does prevent pancreatitis.

People with triglyceride levels of 600 or so should be seen by an internist or endocrinologist.

Does this help as a start?

Absolutely Karl. I appreciate it a lot.

Proving a direct association between high triglycerides and coronary artery blockage leading to heart attacks or angina is very difficult. That’s because high triglycerides are most often caused by something known helpfully as Syndrome X, or “the metabolic syndrome” which includes other lipid (fat) abnormalities*, high blood pressure*, and diabetes*, as well as deposition of fat internally (high waist/hip ratio), generalized obesity, high uric acid levels (gout), and high testosterone levels (baldness in men/facial hair & irregular periods in women). *'d features are well-established independent risks for heart attacks. Attempting to “correct” for these confounding variables leads to statistical manipulations that mean that the conclusions drawn from the various studies need to be looked at critically. And since the studies are pretty well mixed as to whether hypertriglyceridemia is or is not an independent cardiac risk factor, the bottom line conclusion is a huge “maybe”.

What does need to be done when someone has elevated triglycerides, is a fairly thorough evaluation to determine why. Common causes are diabetes, especially if poorly controlled, alcohol abuse, obesity, and certain kinds of kidney and liver diseases. One frequent cause in older women is the use of oral estrogens after menopause (or birth control pills in younger women). Estrogens taken orally affect the liver much more strongly than estrogens secreted by the ovary, or from a skin patch, and in a small fraction of women, this is enough to produce striking elevations of triglycerides.

If no treatable cause can be found, or if after removing the cause and modifying the diet, the triglyceride levels remain over 500, most doctors would suggest using drug therapy to reduce the triglycerides.

Another Country Heard From: Well said! Were you once my fellow?

ACHF thanks a bunch!! Very informative.
If I may throw out a follow up question, how effective is drug therapy to reduce them? (not that we’re even close to being there yet, I don’t think). Because I don’t think the causes you listed apply. Well, actually I really don’t know. I don’t think diabetes runs in her family, and she is certainly not obese, nor has she had maybe 3 alcoholic drinks in her life. Can diet alone cause such high levels? because I suspect she eats her share and then some of chocolate and sugary snacks (but don’t tell her I told you so ;)).

KarlGauss posts:

Well, a goodly number of the folks I trained under could be called curmudgeons, but they were in the US, not in Canada, so I doubt it.

Moe, most cholesterol-reducing drugs target LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. They may slightly increase triglyceride levels, or have a modest reducing effect (10-20% decrease).

One drug commonly used in the US, gemfibrozil (Lopid), specifically targets triglycerides, and, in a typical patient, can be expected to lower triglyccerides by 30-50%. YMMV.

*Information in this and preceding posts is for general informational purposes only. It is intended to improve, not replace, communication between readers and a health care professional familiar with their individual health histories. *

Of course, niacin also lowers triglycerides by a similar amount. In addition it will raise HDL (the good cholesterol) and lower LDL (the bad). So why is it not more popular? Two reasons: 1. side effects (flushing, heartburn, etc. - so not too bad) 2. no patent protection[sup]*[/sup] (thus no advertising or campaigns designed to increase its use).

    • for short acting formulation