High levels of triglycerides are linked to atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and thickening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis increases the risk of developing cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease. The condition can also lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Many people with high triglyceride levels often have other health problems that increase their risk of atherosclerosis. These conditions include obesity, poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that includes a large waist, high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels and abnormal cholesterol levels.
High triglycerides can be caused by a medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) or liver and kidney disease. Some medications, like beta blockers, birth control pills and steroids, can also raise triglyceride levels. Triglyceride levels can also be affected by alcohol, diet, menstrual cycle, time of day and exercise.