HEART
December 11, 2008

Triglycerides Rising

Our rising triglyceride levels are not a good sign. As they go up, so does the risk of stroke. Diet is the key to controlling them.

High blood triglyceride levels dramatically increase a person's risk of stroke. In a recent Danish study, persons with the highest triglyceride levels were three to four times more likely to suffer an ischemic stroke than those with the lowest levels. This is a much stronger association than has previously been found for cholesterol and stroke. Triglycerides are a type of fat, and ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke.

Eating less total fat and exercising more are generally the best way to lower triglyceride levels.

These findings may be particularly important for U.S. residents. The U.S. National Health and Nutrition Surveys (NHANES) have shown that average triglyceride levels have risen about five fold in the last twenty−five years. About one−third of U.S. adults have elevated triglyceride levels.

While elevated triglyceride levels may occur due to metabolic reasons, they're most often caused by diet. Eating less total fat and exercising more are generally the best way to lower triglyceride levels.

The Danish study was of over 14,000 Danish men and women, who were followed for thirty−one years.

The study also relied on a different way to measure triglyceride levels. Conventionally, blood triglycerides are measured after an eight to twelve hour fast. Here, the readings were taken without any regard to mealtime. Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a member of the study team, explains that the non−fasting method is both simpler for the patient and better at defining people at high risk of stroke.

Dr. Nordestgaard is a professor of genetic epidemiology at Copenhagen University Hospital; the results of the study were published in the November 12, 2008 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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