Symptoms of High Triglycerides

Symptoms of High Triglycerides

Last updated on June 16th, 2016

As if having type 2 diabetes was not enough, many people with diabetes also have elevated levels of triglycerides, which increase the risk for heart disease, especially if you have both conditions at the same time.  Diabetics have a metabolic condition that affects many bodily symptoms, causing kidney damage, heart disease, diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic nerve pain.

Having high triglyceride levels appears to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Fortunately, there are things you can do to decrease your triglyceride level.  By decreasing your cholesterol level, you may be able to decrease your chances of having type 2 diabetes as well.

Insulin Resistance, Triglycerides, and Diabetes

Most researcher believe that having high triglyceride levels aren’t behind getting diabetes.  High triglyceride levels are simply an indication that your body isn’t properly turning the food you eat into energy used for cellular fuel.

Under normal circumstances, we make insulin in the pancreas that helps glucose (the main source of cellular fuel) get in the cells, where it is metabolized for cellular energy.  Insulin also seems to help the body use triglycerides as a source for cellular energy.

A typical cause of high triglyceride levels in the bloodstream is having insulin resistance.  This is when the cells of the body don’t recognize insulin and don’t let insulin put glucose into the cells.  When this happens, triglyceride levels increase along with the glucose levels.

There are blood tests available that can tell if you have insulin resistance or not.  When it is determined that you have insulin resistance, your insulin levels may be elevated, indicating the presence of either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you are diabetic and also happen to be overweight or obese, or if you don’t exercise and eat too much food containing sugar or starch, this can worsen your insulin resistance, making the complications of diabetes worse.  Fortunately, there are things you can do that can improve both diabetes and high cholesterol, including eating a healthy diet and exercising on a regular basis.

Symptoms of Elevated Triglyceride Levels

Your triglyceride level may be high without having any type of symptoms. If the triglyceride levels are extremely high, it may show up as fatty deposits called xanthoma. These are yellowish deposits of lipids occurring under the skin.

In cases of genetically high triglycerides (which isn’t common), the triglyceride levels may be so high that you develop pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. Signs you might have pancreatitis from high triglyceride levels include decreased appetite, fever, nausea and vomiting, and severe pain in the upper part of the abdomen.

Symptoms of High TriglyceridesTriglyceride levels can be tracked by having a lipid profile checked on a periodic basis.  If your triglyceride level is normal, the levels are under 150 mg/dL.  If your triglyceride level is borderline high, the levels are 150-199 mg/dL.  High triglyceride levels are between 200 and 499 mg/dL and extremely high triglyceride levels mean that the triglyceride levels are in excess of 500 mg/dL.

High triglyceride levels may also mean you have high cholesterol levels as well.  The combination of high cholesterol and high triglycerides are more dangerous than just having high triglyceride levels.  Only a lipoprotein blood test can tell if you have high triglyceride or high cholesterol levels.

If it is determined that your triglyceride levels are elevated, the doctor may look for a reason as to why you have high triglyceride levels.  Some conditions associated with high triglyceride levels include hypothyroidism, metabolic syndrome, kidney problems, and diabetes.

Prediabetes and High Triglycerides

If insulin resistance is left unchecked, the blood glucose level can build up over time.  The doctor may be able to check your blood glucose values by giving you a fasting blood test that determines the cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

If you have high glucose levels but the levels aren’t high enough to indicate you have type 2 diabetes, you may instead have prediabetes.  In such cases, your cholesterol level and triglyceride level may be elevated as well.

Fortunately, prediabetes can be reversed, lowering the levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels.  Reversing prediabetes means eating a healthy diet high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, exercising on a regular basis, and taking certain medications to bring down the blood glucose levels.  If you don’t do this, the odds that you develop type 2 diabetes are increased.

Diabetes and High Triglycerides

If your blood glucose values are high enough to indicate you have diabetes, it is still not too late to take measures to decrease your blood sugar levels and triglyceride levels.  It means eating a healthy diet, taking medications for diabetes (such as metformin), and exercising at least 150 minutes per week.

If the diabetes is left unchecked, you can have high triglyceride levels, and the high blood glucose levels may cause injury to the kidneys, eyes, brain, and circulatory system.  Your risk of heart disease goes way up when you have diabetes.  Heart disease can manifest itself as having a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral vascular disease.

If you think you have diabetes or prediabetes, seek the medical advice of your doctor in order to find out if you have these diseases and get on a treatment plan to lower your blood sugar levels, which will also decrease your triglyceride levels.  If the diabetes is not well managed, you can develop problems with your kidneys, your eyes, and your sexual functioning.

Lowering Triglyceride Levels

If you have high triglyceride levels, even if you don’t have any symptoms, there are things you can do to decrease the amount of triglycerides in your system.  This includes doing any of the following:

  • Symptoms of High Triglycerides 2Decrease caloric intakeExtra calories mean that the fat turns into triglycerides, which will be stored in your fat cells.
  • Lose some weight-If you can lose 5-10 pounds, your triglyceride level will go down and you’ll have a decreased chance of having diabetes as well.
  • Eat fats that are good for you-Instead of eating saturated fats in dairy products and meat, use fats in your diet that are monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.  These types of fats can be seen in foods derived from plants.  Fats containing monounsaturated fats include canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil.
  • Decrease your intake of processed or sugary foods-If you eat too many simple carbohydrates versus eating complex carbohydrates, your triglyceride level will go up.
  • Exercise on a regular basis-This means doing aerobic exercise for about 150 minutes per week, divided into 30 minute intervals.  Aerobic exercise includes swimming, dancing, cycling, walking briskly, and jogging. Decrease alcohol intake. Alcohol is not good for triglycerides as it contains too much sugar and is high in calories.  Even if you drink alcohol in modest amounts, you can have elevated triglyceride levels.
  • Take medications to lower triglycerides-There are medications that have been found to decrease cholesterol and triglyceride levels, including statin drugs, fish oil (which is high in omega 3 fatty acids), niacin, and fibrates.

References:

  1. How Triglycerides Affect Your Risk of Diabetes. http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/diabetes?page=1
  2. High triglycerides symptoms. http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/tc/high-triglycerides-symptoms
  3. Triglycerides—why do they matter? http://www.mayoclinic.org/triglycerides/art-20048186?pg=2
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