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Triglycerides and Their Role in Total Cholesterol Picture

“Triglycerides” is a word which could probably be included into the list of Top 50 words, terrifying Mankind in the 21st century, along with “bird flue”, “cholesterol, “terrorism” and “global warming” (of course, provided that such a rating would exist:).

However, knowledge is the light, which reveals that the devil is not that terrible as he is painted. So, learning the facts about triglycerides is the first step to manage triglycerides instead of being afraid of them.

In fact, triglycerides are nothing but the form of fat, which naturally occurs in human body. This fat may be either derived from the fat in foods we consume, or produced by our own bodies. The point is that all the calories from food (irrespectively of their origin: carbohydrates, protein or fat) are used as fuel for maintaining multiple body functions. Certain part of the calories is used for immediate energy needs, and the rest is transformed into triglycerides and stored in the fat tissues of the human body. This is a kind of energy reserve for human organism in order to have fuel between meals or when food does not supply as many calories as needed.

Triglycerides may also be present in the blood stream. Along with cholesterol they form so called blood lipids. Both of these substances are important for normal body functioning because cholesterol is used for building cells and triglycerides are used as the fuel. However, both cholesterol and triglycerides may cause health risks when their levels in blood stream increase.

Causes of high triglycerides may vary. Some people have high levels of triglycerides because of genetic peculiarities; others develop hypertriglyceridemia because of undiagnosed and untreated diabetes. Unbalanced diet, regularly supplying more calories than the body needs, may also contribute to the accumulation of triglycerides in the blood. Besides, certain medications, such as beta-blockers, diuretics and birth control pills are also among the potential causes of high triglycerides.

Nowadays doctors check the level of triglycerides in their patients during cholesterol test. The results of this test contain the levels of good (HDL) and bad (LDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. All these three factors form total blood cholesterol level.

The level of triglycerides is measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). The level of triglycerides detected during total cholesterol test may fall into one of the following categories:

  • Normal:                  less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline-High:    150–199 mg/dL
  • High:                       200–499 mg/dL
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  • Very High:              500 mg/dL

Dr. Mason W. Freeman, the author of “The Harvard Medical School Guide to Lowering Your Cholesterol” book says that if you have high triglycerides levels but normal levels of cholesterol, it is the unhealthy lifestyle that should be blamed. That means that high triglycerides can be managed by changing eating habits, exercising or cutting down alcohol consumption.

So, as you can see, triglycerides are not so frightful as it may seem. Besides, high levels of triglycerides can be managed in a relatively simple way (“relatively” because some people find it much more difficult to give up a habit of having lasagne and a bottle of Coke for dinner than to undergo a surgery…)


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