High Triglycerides and Its Symptoms
There are significant health risks to having high triglycerides, but few symptoms. This is what makes the condition dangerous. Despite the significant risks, many people don't bother treating this condition because they don't feel "bad". This is a mistake as the health risks are very real. If you wait until you actually have symptoms before you treat your high triglycerides, you have waited too long and have done damage to yourself.
What are the Symptoms of High Triglycerides?
Actually there are rarely symptoms when you start with high triglycerides. The symptoms are virtually non-existent until significant damage has been done. Here's some of the long-term symptoms of high triglycerides:
- Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas
- Fatty liver and liver enlargement
- Spleen enlargement
- Xanthomas or fat deposits under the skin
Again the symptoms of high triglycerides listed above don't appear immediately.
Pancreatitis symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, vomiting and acute stomach pain. Fatty liver is just what it says. It is a buildup of fat in the liver. If you have more than 10% fat by weight in your liver - you have fatty liver. Too much fat in the liver affects the performance of the liver. With continued levels of high triglycerides, your liver and spleen can enlarge or actually get bigger. With severe high triglycerides, you may get xanthomas which are small fat bumps that occur mainly on your back, knees, heels, chest, buttocks and elbows. You don't want to wait to treat high triglycerides until you experience these symptoms.
The risks are real. Studies have linked a high triglyceride level with an increased risk of stroke. People with triglyceride levels greater than 200 mg/dl were nearly 30% more likely to have a stroke than those with normal levels. Stroke is the third-largest cause of death in the United States after coronary heart disease and all forms of cancer. It is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States.
High triglycerides are linked to plaque build up on your artery walls. If the plaque breaks off, it can block an artery and cause either a heart attack or a stroke. High triglyceride levels are also linked to abnormal blood clotting. A clot can also block an artery causing heart attack or stroke.
The Helsinki Heart Study found that given high blood triglycerides levels alone with no other risk factors for heart disease had a 50 percent increased risk for coronary artery disease compared to people with normal levels.
A Harvard-led study of 340 heart attack patients and 340 of healthy counterparts showed that high triglycerides alone increased the risk of heart attack nearly three-fold. And people with the highest ratio of triglycerides to HDL -- the "good" cholesterol -- had 16 times the risk of heart attack as those with the lowest ratio of triglycerides to HDL. In other words, lower your triglycerides and increase your HDL to reduce your heart attack risk.
Finally, blood triglyceride levels greater than 500 mg/dL put you at risk for fatty liver and acute pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas.
So what is a normal level of triglycerides? The accepted ranges are:
- Normal — Less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL)
- Borderline high — 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High — 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high — 500 mg/dL or above
Fortunately many people can reduce their high triglyceride levels with diet and other lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, exercise, moderation of alcohol and cessation of smoking.