While it is true that a high triglyceride count doesn’t cause diabetes, the unfortunate fact is that approximately 80 percent of those who suffer from type 2 diabetes also have high triglyceride levels. High levels of triglyceride is one of the disorders in metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of abnormalities that, as a group, cause diabetes. Other unwelcome elements of metabolic syndrome are high blood pressure and blood sugar, low HDL, known as “good” cholesterol, as well as extra belly fat. Metabolic syndrome also raises your risk for stroke and heart disease.
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Body fat is made up of fat from the food we eat and from the fat molecules in triglycerides and cholesterol as they circulate as lipids through our bloodstream. Hypertriglyceridemia is the medical definition for an elevated level of triglycerides. In addition to the risk for stroke, heart attacks and nerve damage, high triglycerides are linked to atherosclerosis and also to insulin resistance.
In laboratory tests (fasting), normal triglyceride is less than 150 mg/dL, with 150-199 mg/dL considered borderline high. High levels are 200-499 mg/dL, and over 500 mg/dL is considered very high.
Diabetes and Elevated Levels of Triglyceride
High levels of triglyceride can be caused by a variety of things. Common causes of type 2 diabetes with its related complications are listed below:
- Unchecked type 2 diabetes: If type 2 diabetes isn’t well controlled, elevated levels of insulin and glucose, or blood sugar, are likely to be detected in the body. Insulin is helpful in converting glucose to glycogen (the storage of glucose in the body) and it helps the liver store glycogen. But if the liver stores too much glycogen, glucose is used instead to produce fatty acids which are then released in the blood. Fatty acids then create triglycerides, which in turn build up fat cells, contributing to increased body fat.
- High intake of carbohydrates: When foods that contain carbohydrates are eaten and then broken down in our digestive system, glucose is extracted and absorbed in the intestines and sent to the bloodstream where excessive glucose can create triglycerides.
- Consuming larger quantities of calories than is possible to utilize: Triglycerides are utilized by the body as an instant source of energy between meals. It stores any leftover calories as triglycerides.
- Obesity: A direct correlation exists between hypertriglyceridemia and obesity, although obesity doesn’t guarantee that elevated triglyceride levels will develop. There is actually a greater correlation between high triglyceride levels and larger waist circumference than there is with body mass index.
- Resistance to Insulin: Elevated levels, both of glucose and insulin, can be caused by resistance to the performance of insulin, which in turn can develop into diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes may also cause high levels of triglycerides, as listed above.
- Low levels of thyroid hormones: Thyroid disorders, especially the most common disorder, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), seem to be more prevalent in people suffering from diabetes. High levels of triglycerides and cholesterol are symptoms of low levels of thyroid hormone and should be evaluated by a doctor. Hypothyroidism treatment could lower levels of triglyceride.
- Renal failure: There is an increased danger of chronic kidney (renal) failure in people who have diabetes. Diabetes is actually the typical cause of renal failure, which creates complications with regulating blood fats, therefore resulting in high levels of triglyceride. This is possibly due to larger production of triglyceride, an inability to move triglycerides from the blood, or perhaps a combination. Renal failure is also likely to cause or increase resistance to insulin.
- Genetics: If there is a generational history of high triglycerides, it is possible that those affected have xanthomas, a yellow fatty deposit beneath the skin. In 2012 research discovered that high levels of triglyceride combined with low HDL cholesterol prevalent in family histories is correlated to increased danger of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Medications: Some medications, including estrogen, birth control pills, retinoids, steroids, beta blockers, , protease inhibitors, diuretics, and Tamoxifen, may raise levels of Anyone taking these medications should consult their doctor. (It is not recommended to stop taking the medications without a doctor’s advice, however.)
- Food: There seems to be a correlation between triglyceride levels and some types of food. The bodies of diabetics have less tolerance for foods such as simple sugars, alcohol, refined processed grains, and foods containing high levels of fat, particularly ones with elevated levels of saturated fats and trans fats.
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Triglycerides and Your Risk for Diabetes
Because type 2 diabetes affects your entire body as it becomes progressively worse, it is a condition to be avoided at all cost. It can lead to vision loss as well as loss of sensation, particularly in your fingertips and feet, and it can cause heart and kidney disease. However, while you have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes with high triglyceride, with some work you can lower your triglycerides, thus lowering your risk of developing diabetes.
Lowering Triglyceride Levels
Coupling some sensible lifestyle changes with medication can significantly lower levels of triglycerides in addition to LDL cholesterol, thus reducing your odds for a heart event or heart disease. There are several ways to lower triglyceride levels without medication. A daily exercise routine and eating healthy food that is low in sugar, carbohydrates, trans fat and saturated fat can effectively reduce triglyceride levels. Eliminating smoking and limiting alcohol intake will help as well, as it is imperative that you gain control of your diabetes. If all this is not enough to lower your triglyceride levels or if your high levels of triglyceride are related to genetics, then consultation with a doctor is advised to manage these levels with medication.
Warning Signs of Diabetes:
Warning 1: Insulin Resistance Elevated levels of triglycerides are not the cause of diabetes, but increased levels can predict that your body is not properly converting its food to energy.
Your body normally makes insulin to “escort” the glucose into your cells. Once inside the cells, the body converts glucose to energy. In addition, insulin helps your body convert triglycerides into energy.
When your body won’t allow insulin, and its partner glucose, inside its cells, it is because you have insulin resistance, a common effect of elevated triglycerides. This results in increasing levels of both triglycerides and glucose in the blood.
Insulin resistance can be diagnosed with a blood test. If insulin resistance is present, then the level of insulin in your bloodstream is elevated and you are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your resistance can be worse if you are overweight, don’t exercise, or eat lots of starchy and sugary foods. This can be reversed by following your doctor’s recommended meal and exercise plans, and also by taking the medicine your doctor prescribes.
Second Sign: Prediabetes Over time, untreated insulin resistance causes a buildup of glucose to in the bloodstream. A doctor’s test can determine blood sugar, or glucose, levels with a fasting blood sample.
If elevated glucose levels are present, but not high enough to indicate diabetes, it’s possible to be diagnosed with prediabetes, which means that your cholesterol and triglyceride levels are elevated.
Diabetes can still be avoided, however, by reducing blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Work with your doctor to develop a lifestyle of proper nutrition, exercise, and medication and your blood sugar levels should return to normal. If left untreated, diabetes will likely develop from prediabetes.
Diabetes: Is it too late? Untreated levels of blood sugar can escalate into diabetes. Over time, these high levels injure blood vessels and nerves, which in turn impedes circulation. This can adversely affect your kidneys, vision, and even the cells in your brain. If that’s not bad enough, it greatly increases your chances for heart disease or heart attack, possibly even a stroke. Other complications can include blindness, bladder problems, and sexual issues.
It is imperative that you work with your doctor to bring your blood sugar and triglyceride levels down with lifestyle changes as well as medication. The good news is that many of these medications and lifestyle changes will lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing your chances of developing heart disease or a heart attack.
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