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Heart Disease Health Center

Do Triglyceride Tests Really Help Predict Heart Disease?

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"This article is just one more shot in a controversial area," Rubins tells WebMD. "We've been trying to get to the bottom of this triglyceride issue for many years. I wouldn't want to have an elevated level of triglycerides myself, but there is not a lot we can do about it. We just haven't been able to get our arms around triglyceride measurements, and that suggests to me that it is not really a good test." Rubins is chief of general internal medicine at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

Another noted specialist -- Scott M. Grundy, MD, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas -- takes the opposite point of view. Grundy says that the study is just another in a series of analyses that miss the point.

"They might have the right answer but the wrong conclusion," Grundy tells WebMD. "Triglycerides are a marker for multiple risk factors for heart disease." He adds that they are a marker for heart disease, not necessarily a cause of the disease. "If they are a marker [for future heart disease], it doesn't mean you don't have trouble when the [level's] high. If you live in a tornado area and the siren goes off, you don't go out and treat the siren for going off. To say they are not a meaningful clinical marker is not correct."

Avins says that regardless of the predictive value of triglyceride tests, patients with higher-than-normal cholesterol levels or other risks of heart disease should take action. These include:

  • Stop smoking.
  • Reduce your blood pressure.
  • Get treatment for high cholesterol levels.
  • Consider preventive aspirin therapy.
  • Ask your doctor about drugs known as ACE inhibitors.

Although they are not conclusively proven to reduce heart disease, other important actions include moderate exercise and stress reduction.

 

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