What Happens When You Have High Cholesterol
When you eat too many foods that are high in cholesterol, saturated fats, and trans fats, they can increase your risk of developing high cholesterol.
Moreover, living with obesity also increases your risk.
Some of the other lifestyle factors that can contribute to this are inactivity and smoking.
Genetics can also affect your chances of developing high cholesterol. Certain genes that come from your parents instruct your body on how to process cholesterol and fats.
Therefore, if you have high cholesterol then you set also at a greater risk of having it as well.
However, in rare cases, high cholesterol is due to familial hypercholesterolemia that is a genetic disorder preventing your body from removing LDL.
You may also be at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol if you are:
- living with obesity
- family history of high cholesterol
- have diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, or hypothyroidism
It is important to note that individuals of all ages, genders, and ethnicities can have high cholesterol.
Patient Safety And Education
First and foremost, it is essential to educate individuals on a heart-healthy lifestyle. LDL-C is one of the major culprits in the development of atherosclerotic heart disease. The target level of LDL-C is between 50 to 70mg/dl to prevent plaque formation in the blood vessels. Patients should undergo evaluation for 10-year risk and those with more than 10 percent risk guidelines strongly recommend statin therapy. Low levels of HDL-C are related to an increased risk of CVD however, according to recent studies, HDL-C raising therapy showed no clinical benefit therefore, routine use is not recommended.
Outcomes And End Point
Regarding outcome measures, the main predictor was plasma triglycerides, the end point incident type 2 diabetes defined as per protocol fasting plasma glucose7.0 mmol/L, non-fasting glucose11.1 mmol/L, self-report of a type 2 diabetes diagnosis or initiation of glucose lowering medication . Please note that no case of self-reported type 2 diabetes diagnosis occurred in the present study.
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Diets High In Calories Carbs And Fats
Triglyceride levels increase with a positive energy-intake balance . In other words, when you eat more than your body needs, the surplus is transformed into fat, including triglycerides. Its easier to overeat when your diet is high in calories and contains lots of carbs and saturated fats .
Low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets are among the most common causes of high triglycerides. But wait we said that high-fat diets are bad, so doesnt that mean a low-fat diet should be beneficial? Not quite .
Saturated, unhealthy fats are bad. But your body needs healthy fats such as those found in olive oil and fish oil to keep your triglyceride levels normal and to maintain your overall health. If you dont get enough dietary fats, your body will revert to transforming the sugars you consume into fats .
This goes against the popular but unfounded belief that your body wont store fat as long as you dont eat fats. In truth, high-carbohydrate diets can be much worse than high-fat diets for your triglyceride levels. Many scientists advocate that high-carb, low-fat diets likely also contributed to the obesity epidemic in America over the past few decades .
Dos And Donts In Managing High Triglycerides:
- DO exercise regularly.
- DO eat more fruits and vegetables and high-fiber foods such as oat bran. Cook with monounsaturated fatsolive, peanut, and canola oils.
- DO eat fish.
- DO stop smoking.
- DO lose weight by changing your diet and doing aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, bicycling, or swimming. Exercise at least 30 minutes daily.
- DONT forget to treat other medical conditions such as diabetes and underactive thyroid.
- DONT drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
- DONT change your diet or medicines without your doctors approval.
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Diagnosis Of High Triglycerides
A blood test can reveal whether or not you have high triglycerides. You may need to have two blood tests for accurate results. Dont eat anything for at least 12 hours before each blood test because food particularly fatty food can temporarily boost triglyceride levels in the blood and skew your test results.Triglycerides are measured in mmol/L. The range includes:
- Very high over 6 mmol/L
- High between2 and 6 mmol/L
- Borderline high between 1.7 and 2 mmol/L
- Normal below 1.7 mmol/L
The doctor may also test your cholesterol levels. In many cases, high triglycerides and high cholesterol go hand in hand. This condition is sometimes known as combined hyperlipidemia.
Metabolic Syndrome Risk Factors
High triglyceride levels are associated with a collection of disorders known as metabolic syndrome. A person with metabolic syndrome has an increased risk of developing diabetes, stroke or heart disease.A person is classed as having metabolic syndrome when they have any three of the following factors:
- Central obesity excess fat in and around the stomach
- High blood pressure
- Higher than normal blood glucose levels
- Low HDL cholesterol
- High blood triglycerides.
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How Do I Prepare For The Test
You may need to not eat or drink anything but water for 12 to 14 hours before this test. In addition, be sure your healthcare provider knows about all medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are taking. This includes medicines that don’t need a prescription and any illicit drugs you may use.
What Is This Test
This group of tests measures the amount of cholesterol and other fats in your blood.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids, or fats. These fats are important for cell health, but they can be harmful when they build up in the blood. Sometimes they can lead to clogged, inflamed arteries, a condition call atherosclerosis. This may keep your heart from working normally if the arteries of your heart muscle are affected.
This panel of tests helps predict your risk for heart disease and stroke.
A lipid panel measures these fats:
- Total cholesterol
- High total cholesterol
If you are already being treated for heart disease, you may have this test to see whether treatment is working.
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What Strategies Can Be Used To Lower Triglyceride Levels
For many people, high triglycerides are caused by another disorder, such as diabetes, obesity, renal failure, or alcoholism. With these conditions, the strategy is to treat the primary cause. When high triglycerides are not caused by another disorder, they are often seen together with high cholesterol and treatment is directed toward lowering both cholesterol and triglycerides. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and increased exercise, are usually the primary strategy for lowering levels. If these fail, lipid-lowering medications such as statins are generally recommended. For more on this, visit the American Heart Associationâs webpage on Healthy Living.
When To Contact A Doctor
While high triglyceride levels typically do not cause symptoms, anyone concerned they may have high triglyceride or cholesterol levels should contact their doctor.
A doctor would usually measure triglyceride and cholesterol levels at the same time as high levels of either may contribute to heart conditions.
Doctors may recommend drug therapies in some cases. This may happen if a person has dangerously high triglyceride levels that need to come down quickly or if their levels do not respond to lifestyle and dietary changes.
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Normal Cholesterol Levels In Adults
You should get your cholesterol levels checked every 5 years after your age is more than 20 years, according to the American Heart Association.
Your doctor will perform the screening test i.e. lipid profile.
Cholesterol levels consist of LDLs, HDLs, and triglycerides.
LDL is bad cholesterol as it blocks our blood vessels and increases your risk for heart disease.
On the other hand, HDL is good cholesterol as it helps to protect you from heart disease.
Thus, the higher your HDL, the better.
Total cholesterol also includes a triglyceride count and these are other types of fat that can build up in the body in the body.
Moreover, doctors consider them building blocks of cholesterol.
High levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL raise your risk for heart disease.
This is because as you age, cholesterol tends to climb. Furthermore, men are often at a higher risk than women for higher cholesterol.
However, as a woman experiences menopause, their risk for high cholesterol goes up.
For those with high cholesterol and other heart risks, like diabetes, doctors often recommend frequent testing.
What Affects My Cholesterol Levels
A variety of things can affect cholesterol levels. These are some things you can do to lower your cholesterol levels:
- Diet. Saturated fat and cholesterol in the food you eat make your blood cholesterol level rise. Saturated fat is the main problem, but cholesterol in foods also matters. Reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet helps lower your blood cholesterol level. Foods that have high levels of saturated fats include some meats, dairy products, chocolate, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.
- Weight. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. It also tends to increase your cholesterol. Losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also raises your HDL cholesterol level.
- Physical Activity. Not being physically active is a risk factor for heart disease. Regular physical activity can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol levels. It also helps you lose weight. You should try to be physically active for 30 minutes on most, if not all, days.
- Smoking.Cigarette smoking lowers your HDL cholesterol. HDL helps to remove bad cholesterol from your arteries. So a lower HDL can contribute to a higher level of bad cholesterol.
Things outside of your control that can also affect cholesterol levels include:
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When Should You Speak With A Doctor
It is important to note that there are a few symptoms of high cholesterol.
However, emergency symptoms are stroke or a heart attack that may be the only indicator of damage from high cholesterol.
This means that you should make sure that your doctor regularly monitors it.
Moreover, you should get your cholesterol levels checked with a blood test every 4 to 6 years.
Your doctor may also recommend more frequent screening if you live with any of the following:
- a history of heart condition
- high blood pressure
What Are The Causes And Symptoms Of High Triglycerides
Causes include obesity, eating too much unhealthy food, genetics, certain illnesses including poorly controlled diabetes, kidney disease, and underactive thyroid . Some drugs, such as steroids and birth control pills, and drinking a lot of alcohol can also cause it.
Most people have no symptoms. Very high levels can cause small fat deposits under the skin and a painful inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.
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Are Low Levels Of Triglycerides A Cause For Concern
As the low levels are classically not a reason for concern, there is no existing range for them. The below normal levels of triglycerides, those below 150 mg/dL, are potentially an image of:
- A healthy and nourishing diet
- A low-fat diet
- A diet involving fasting
Low levels of triglycerides might also indicate an underlying health problem. This can be malnutrition or malabsorption. However, such health problems are detected and diagnosed by other signs.
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What Do Low Triglyceride Levels Indicate And Can They Be Too Low
In general, having low triglyceride levels is not considered a problem. If your triglyceride levels are less than 150mg/dL, you have a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack or stroke.
However, if your triglyceride levels are extremely low and less than 40mg/dL, then you may have a medical condition or disease, such as liver problems or inflammation. Your risk of dying from heart failure is also higher if triglycerides are too low.
Other causes of very low triglyceride levels include:
- Very low-fat diets
- Certain rare genetic conditions that affect how your body converts fat to energy
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What Is The Role Of Triglycerides In The Blood
Triglycerides are a type of lipids present in the blood. They are used as an energy storage.
When we eat more calories than we need, the body stores part of those calories in the form of triglycerides. These triglycerides circulate through the bloodstream to provide energy to the muscles. After a meal, new triglycerides are added to the bloodstream and the levels of triglycerides in the blood increase.
If triglycerides in the blood are high it is very likely that cholesterol in the blood is also high.
If triglycerides, cholesterol and calcium are accumulated in the bloodstream, it is possible that they can narrow arteries or even cause the closure of an artery.
How Often Should I Get A Cholesterol Test
When and how often you should get a cholesterol test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. The general recommendations are:
For people who are age 19 or younger::
- The first test should be between ages 9 to 11
- Children should have the test again every 5 years
- Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
For people who are age 20 or older::
- Younger adults should have the test every 5 years
- Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should have it every 1 to 2 years
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Causes Of High Triglycerides
A study that looked at 5.6k people who participated in a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about one-third of US adults had high triglyceride levels .
A similar study of 5.6k people found that only about 2% of adults experienced extremely high levels , the leading cause of pancreas inflammation in the US .
High triglyceride levels can be caused by lifestyle and dietary factors, genetics, and other diseases .
On a mechanistic level, triglycerides will rise too much if :
- Your liver is producing too much triglyceride-dense VLDL cholesterol
- Your diet is excessive and unhealthy
- You have low lipoprotein lipase activity, which is the enzyme that breaks down triglycerides
All the potential causes outlined below affect one or more of these conditions.
Causes listed below are commonly associated with high triglycerides. Work with your doctor or another health care professional to get an accurate diagnosis.
What Are The Normal Triglyceride Levels In The Blood
Adults: 50-150 mg/dlChildren up to 9 years old: 40-75 mg/dlChildren from 10 to 17 years old: 45-90 mg/dl
In the International System of Units , triglycerides in the blood are measured in mmol/L. The normal triglyceride levels in the blood in the SI are:
Adults: 0.56-1.7 mmol/lChildren up to 9 years old: 0.45-0.85 mmol/lChildren from 10 to 17 years old: 0.50-1.02 mmol/l
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Normal Cholesterol Level Chart For Adults
According to the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, JACC, the following are the acceptable, borderline, and high measurements for adults.
Moreover, it is important to note that all these values are in mg-dL i.e. milligrams per deciliter, and are on fasting measurements.
Understanding Cholesterol Levels in Men vs. Women
In most cases, guidelines are similar for both men and women over the age of 20, though they may differ when it comes to HDL cholesterol as you can see in the above chart.
Moreover, women should aim for higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
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How Can You Lower Triglyceride Levels
If you are diagnosed with high blood triglycerides, your doctor may first recommend that you adopt heart-healthy lifestyle changes. These may include:
- Choosing heart-healthy foods and limiting alcohol, added sugars, and foods high in saturated fat
- Getting regular physical activity
- Aiming for a healthy weight
- Getting enough good quality sleep
- Managing stress
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Treatment For Elevated Triglycerides
The treatment goals for any individual with elevated blood lipids must take into account the severity of the abnormalities and the specific lipid levels that are abnormal, as well the medical history and presence of additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Treatments to reduce triglyceride levels are lipid altering medications, which are used to reduce levels of undesirable blood lipids, such as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing blood levels of desirable lipids, such as HDL cholesterol. If triglyceride levels are extremely elevated, treatment may primarily address this problem in order to avoid pancreatitis , which can be a complication of extremely high triglyceride levels.
There are different types of lipid altering medications, but only some of these are effective in lowering triglycerides.
HMG CoA reductase inhibitors, fibric acide derivitaves, and nicotinic acid are classes of drugs that have effects on triglyceride levels.
What Abnormal Results Mean
High triglyceride levels may be due to:
- Other medicines, such as female hormones
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Disorder passed down through families in which there are high amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood
Overall, the treatment of elevated triglyceride levels focuses on increased exercise and changes in the diet. Drugs to lower triglyceride levels may be used to prevent pancreatitis for levels above 500 mg/dL.
Low triglyceride levels may be due to:
- Low fat diet
Pregnancy can affect test results.
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Dangers Of Low Triglycerides
Low triglyceride levels are generally not dangerous. In fact, research supports the idea that low triglyceride levels can offer certain health benefits.
In one 2014 study, researchers found that lower non-fasting triglyceride levels were associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality in almost 14,000 study participants.
Another smaller 2017 study found that low triglyceride levels were linked to improved brain function in older adults without dementia.
However, incredibly low triglyceride levels may be linked to other conditions, as mentioned above. Some of these conditions in and of themselves may be dangerous, so it becomes important to treat the underlying condition thats causing low triglycerides.