Some commonly prescribed medications can raise triglyceride levels. These include birth control pills, cardiovascular drugs, thiazide diuretics and some acne medications. Drugs used to treat HIV infections and anti-psychotic drugs such as clozapine cause a significant rise in triglycerides. High triglycerides can contribute to a greater risk for heart disease.
What Are Triglycerides?
Triglycerides are a type of fat, also called lipids or lipoproteins. Triglycerides are important for the body because they are converted to energy. If you have too many triglycerides in your system, though, they are stored as fat. They are produced in the liver or consumed in the food we eat. Triglycerides travel through the bloodstream attached to low density lipoproteins (LDL). A buildup of LDL, or bad cholesterol, in the bloodstream can cause blockages in the arteries called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a major contributing factor in heart disease and stroke.
Who Is at Risk?
Anyone who consumes excess fat in his diet is at risk for high triglycerides. Those who have a family history of high triglycerides or suffer from diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or hypothyroidism should talk to their doctor about the medications they are taking and the risk of raised triglyceride levels.
Normal Levels Of Triglycerides
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, levels of triglycerides should be below 150 mg/dl. Levels between 150 and 199 mg/dl are considered borderline high. Levels between 200 and 499 mg/dl are considered very high, and levels above 500 mg/dl are considered extremely high. A simple blood test done by your doctor will determine the level of triglycerides in your blood.
Cardiovascular medications such as beta blockers can raise triglyceride levels by 10 percent to 40 percent. Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors can increase triglyceride levels in people with diabetes. Some examples of beta blockers are propranolol, atenolol and metoprolol. Examples of ACE inhibitors include fosinopril, lisinopril and enalapril.
Thiazide diuretics can raise LDL cholesterol by 5 percent to 10 percent and triglyceride levels by up to 15 percent. Thiazide diuretics include Aquatensen, Diucardin, Microzide and Zaroxolyn.
Contraceptives and Hormonal Therapy
The estrogen in contraceptives and hormone therapy for menopause can raise triglyceride levels by as much as 40 percent. Progesterone, another hormone commonly used in birth control pills, can raise levels by about 15 percent . The effect of the level of triglycerides in your blood will vary according to the combination used in each brand of birth control pill.
Isoretinoids used for acne treatment can raise triglyceride levels by 35 to 140 percent. Some immunosuppressive drugs used after organ transplants or in chemotherapy may raise levels up to 50 percent. Protease inhibitors used to treat HIV infections have been shown to raise levels as much as 200 percent in some patients. Clozapine, an anti-psychotic drug, can elevate triglyceride levels up to 50 percent.
What Can You Do?
Start by sticking to a low-fat diet and include exercise in your routine. If you are on any of the medications mentioned in this article, a regular blood test is important to monitor the level of triglycerides in your blood. Your doctor may be able to prescribe an alternative medication to lower your risk of increased triglycerides and your risk of heart disease.