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How Triglycerides Affect Your Risk of Diabetes

No one wants type 2 diabetes. It’s a condition that affects your whole body and gets progressively worse, leading to loss of vision and feeling (especially in your feet and fingertips), as well as kidney disease and heart disease. Having high triglycerides makes you more likely to develop it, though. Luckily, with some effort, you have a good chance of lowering your triglycerides -- which, at the same time, lowers your chance of getting diabetes.

The First Sign: Insulin Resistance

High triglycerides don't cause diabetes. Instead, their levels indicate that your system for turning food into energy isn't working properly.  

Normally, your body makes insulin, which “escorts” glucose -- the type of sugar in your blood --inside your cells. There, your body turns glucose into energy. Insulin also allows your body to use triglycerides for energy.  

A common cause of high triglycerides in your blood is insulin resistance; that’s when your cells won’t let insulin, or its companion glucose, inside your cells. As a result, both glucose and triglycerides build up in your blood. 

Your doctor can do a blood test to see if you have insulin resistance. When you do, the insulin level in your blood is too high, and you’re one step closer to type 2 diabetes.

If you also are overweight, eat a lot of sugary and starchy foods, or don’t exercise, your insulin resistance can be worse.

You can reverse your tracks by following the exercise and meal plan your doctor recommends to lower your triglycerides and by taking prescribed medicine.

Second Chance: Prediabetes

If you don’t treat insulin resistance, then over time, glucose will build up in your blood. Your doctor can check your blood sugar (also called glucose) levels, by taking a sample of your blood after you’ve fasted, which means you haven’t eaten for at least 12 hours.

If your glucose levels are high, but not enough to equal diabetes, you could have prediabetes. If you do, you’ve taken another giant step closer to type 2 diabetes. When you have prediabetes (or diabetes), you are also likely to have high triglycerides and cholesterol.

But, it’s not too late to reverse your tracks and reduce your blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol. When you follow your doctor’s guidance about eating, exercising, and taking prescribed medicines, your blood sugars will return to a healthy level. If you don’t choose this path and don’t treat your prediabetes, it can turn into diabetes.

Diabetes: It’s Still Not Too Late

If your blood sugar levels climb to a high enough level, you have diabetes. If you don’t treat it, then over time, high blood sugar levels injure nerves and harm blood vessels, which impairs circulation. The damage can affect your vision, your kidneys, and even your brain cells. Beyond this cascade of problems, diabetes dramatically increases your risk of heart disease, which could lead to a heart attack or stroke. Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan to bring your triglyceride levels and your blood sugar levels down. Your plan is likely to include both medication and lifestyle changes. It’s worth it because your efforts can help reduce complications from diabetes, which can include blindness, bladder problems, and sexual issues.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on December 24, 2012

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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