Triglyceride has in its composition three fatty acids. Just like cholesterol, triglycerides enter the body through two ways – they are either produced by the liver or they are inserted into the bloodstream through diet. Also, just as cholesterol it can only circulate in the blood by combining with a lipoprotein and it cannot dissolve. Thus, after a meal, cholesterol and triglycerides are absorbed into the intestines and are packaged into some round particles known as chylomicrons before they are released into the blood circulation.
A collection of triglycerides and cholesterol that is surrounded by a lipoprotein outer coat is called a chylomicron. (Chlymicrons have a chemical composition of 10 percent cholesterol and 90 percent triglyceride). The liver removes chylomicrons and triglycerides from the bloodstream and it synthesizes and packages them into VLDL or very low density lipoprotein particles and it releases them back into the bloodstream.
Triglyceride levels and atherosclerosis
The subject whereas atherosclerosis and heart attacks are lead by elevated triglyceride levels in the blood is controversial. Nowadays, most doctors believe that a risk factor for atherosclerosis is actually an abnormally high triglyceride level, it is difficult to conclusively prove that atherosclerosis is caused by those elevated triglyceride levels themselves. Still, it is increasingly recognized that triglyceride levels that are elevated are most of the time associated with conditions that increase the risk of atherosclerosis, such as obesity, low levels of HDL cholesterol, dense LDL cholesterol particles, poorly controlled diabetes and insulin resistance.
Causes of elevated triglyceride levels
Abnormally high triglyceride levels or hypertriglyceridemia may be in some cases inherited. Hypertriglyceridemia cases that are inherited generate disorders such as mixed hypertriglyceridemia, familial hypertriglyceridemia, and familial dysbetalipoproteinemia. However, non-genetic factors such as kidney disease, estrogen containing medications (such as birth control pills), diabetes mellitus, and excessive alcohol intake can all be causes of hypertriglyceridemia.
Treating elevated blood triglyceride levels
A low fat diet with regular aerobic exercise, loss of excess weight, reduction of alcohol consumption, ceasing cigarette smoking and limited amount of sweets is the first step in treating hypertriglyceridemia. Also, in patients that suffer from diabetes mellitus (type II diabetes) a meticulous control of elevated blood sugar is also very important.
In some cases, medications may be necessary. Fibrates (Lopid), nicotinic acid and statin medications may be prescribed in some cases. Lopid increases HDL levels and LDL cholesterol particle size, and it also decreases triglyceride levels. Nicotinic acid increases the size of LDL cholesterol particles, increases HDL cholesterol levels, lowers the levels of Lp(a) cholesterol and decreases triglyceride levels.