Triglycerides, a type of lipids or fats, are stored in fat cells for future energy use. When a person eats a meal with a lot of calories, the lipase enzyme breaks the fat into fatty acids and glycerol. The glycerol component is combined with three fatty acids to form the triglyceride component. Unused triglycerides are then stored in the fat cells. When a person requires energy, hormones trigger the release of triglycerides for conversion into energy. This explains how the body is able to have enough energy even after a couple of days of infrequent eating.
It is important to maintain a normal level of triglycerides in the blood, as high levels have been linked to atherosclerosis, which can lead to stroke and other heart diseases. Here are the various causes of high triglycerides in the blood.
Lifestyle and Diet
Triglyceride levels increase whenever a person eats more calories than what the body requires.Two of the most common causes of this elevation are the consumption of high-fat foods and intake of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol usually boosts the production of triglycerides by the liver while at the same time reducing fats cleared from the blood. Excessive alcohol intake may also lead to liver disease, which can further cause elevation of triglycerides in the blood. Obesity is also known to be a major factor in triglyceride elevation.
Use of Medications
There are some medications that can increase blood triglyceride levels. These include steroids, water pills, beta-blockers and birth control pills.
One medical condition associated with the increase of triglycerides in the body is hypothyroidism, a medical condition where the body no longer produces sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone. This usually slows down metabolic processes inside the body, including the metabolism of triglycerides. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weakness, increase in weight, intolerance to cold, dry hair, constipation, thinning hair, depression, muscle aches, and memory loss.
Other medical conditions that may cause triglyceride increases are uncontrolled diabetes, fatty liver and kidney problems.
Heredity is another cause of high blood triglycerides levels. Some individuals are genetically prone to having excessive amounts of triglycerides in their blood. Examples of these conditions are familial hypertriglyceridemia and familial combined hyperlipidemia.
Treatment and Prevention
People with high triglycerides should modify their diets to reduce fat intake. Some people also have to take medications to reduce the amount of triglycerides in the blood.
Prevention is also important in order to avoid the complications brought about by high triglycerides in the blood. Preventive methods include regular exercise, maintaining the right weight, and cutting back on calories, cholesterol and fats in the diet. When the causes of high triglycerides are related to medical conditions like diabetes and kidney problems, it is also best to follow a doctor’s instructions on how to control them.
MayoClinic.com: Triglycerides: why do they matter?
WebMD: High Triglycerides Overview
MedicineNet.com: Definition of Triglycerides
Image Credit / Wikimedia Commons / Alpha