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High Triglycerides May Not Predict Heart Disease

Kate Traynor

A new study casts doubt on the importance of using blood triglyceride levels to asses men's risk for developing coronary heart disease and recommends screening cholesterol subfractions alone. Cholesterol-measuring devices designed for use in clinics, however, often report blood triglyceride levels along with other values.

In the study, consideration of triglyceride levels separately from the ratio of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) to high-density lipoprotein (HDL) did not improve the ability to predict the development of coronary heart disease in men. However, women with high triglyceride levels and high LDL-to-HDL ratios had a greater risk of heart disease than other women had. Because only 60 women in the study later developed heart disease, the authors encouraged further research with a larger population to confirm the correlation. 

The report (PDF), published in the July 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, analyzed data from 15,880 patients enrolled in three prospective U.S. studies of coronary heart disease. A total of 789 adults died from the disease or survived a myocardial infarction. 

The authors reported a "low to moderate" association of triglyceride levels with LDL-to-HDL ratios and called triglyceride levels a "proxy" for cholesterol subfraction measurement. 

An accompanying editorial (PDF) cited studies indicating that changes in triglyceride levels are not necessarily related to the occurrence of myocardial infarction and other cardiovascular events. Based on these results and the new report, the editorialist found "no compelling therapeutic rationale" for obtaining triglyceride levels when screening for coronary heart disease.