Each year, heart disease takes the lives of nearly 500,000 American women. But here's the good news: You can reduce the risks that contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Until recently, triglycerides were often called the "forgotten fat." Their importance as a risk factor for heart disease was overshadowed by a focus on cholesterol. But triglycerides, along with cholesterol, are present in your blood. Together they create what are called blood lipids.
Triglycerides come from the food you eat. Calories eaten but not used immediately by the body‚ like certain carbohydrates‚ are converted to triglycerides and then stored in fat cells to meet energy needs as they arise.
For many women, excess weight forms as a "spare tire" around the belly. If that's where you carry extra fat, you can be pretty sure you already have or are on your way to developing high triglycerides. Thin women should be aware that it's possible to have elevated triglycerides even without the extra tummy weight.
- Levels over 150 mg/dL can increase your risk of heart disease—especially if accompanied by low HDL ("good") cholesterol levels (under 40 mg/dL).
- An increase in triglyceride levels of only 88 points increases the risk that a woman will develop heart disease by 37%. (In men, that risk rises only 14%.)
- Your chance of developing heart disease doubles if triglyceride levels exceed 200 mg/dL.
- When triglycerides are above 200 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol is below 40 mg/dL, the risk for heart disease increases fourfold.
Another thing to keep in mind: Some medications can raise your triglyceride levels to unhealthy highs. For example, menopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) should know that HRT has been linked to significant increases in triglycerides. HRT also raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.
If your triglyceride levels are high, your doctor will likely recommend three steps that will help you gain control of your levels: Eat healthier, exercise more and take medication if indicated.
You and your physician will monitor your progress and your comfort level with your treatment plan—and adjust it as needed.