Tracking Triglycerides

Very high levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat) increase stroke risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Stroke risk in men and women increases with higher levels of non-fasting triglycerides (a type of blood fat), according to new research.

Researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital report that triglycerides play a role in stroke risk akin to that of low density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) in that both contribute to the fatty build-up in arteries known as atherosclerosis. Interestingly, the researchers note, while LDL levels are addressed in stroke-prevention guidelines, triglyceride levels are largely ignored.

The 33-year-old study marks the first to examine how the risk of stroke from exceedingly high levels of non-fasting triglycerides compare with extremely high cholesterol levels in the general population, according to lead study author, Dr. Marianne Benn.

The team of Danish researchers followed a total of 7,579 women and 6,372 men enrolled in the Copenhagen City Heart Study. All participants were caucasian and of Danish decent. They each had their cholesterol and non-fasting triglyceride levels recorded for a baseline measurement in 1976 to 1978 and were followed up for 33 years.

A total of 837 women and 837 men developed ischemic stroke (the most common form of stroke, resulting when the blood-supply to the brain is obstructed).

Compared with women whose triglyceride levels were less than 1 mmol/L (89 mg/dL), those with triglycerides levels of 1-2 mmol/L (89-177 mg/dL) carried a relative stroke risk of 1.2. Triglycerides levels of 5 mmol/L (443 mg/dL) or greater were associated with a 3.9-fold greater risk of ischemic stroke.

In men the results were similar with a relative risk that ranged from 1.2 to 2.3.

In addition to stroke risk, high levels of triglycerides also multiply the negative health effects of smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, putting individuals at higher risk of heart disease.

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Review Date: 
February 22, 2011
Last Updated:
February 22, 2011