High Triglycerides Tied to Pancreatitis Risk

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People are often advised to keep levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat, in check to lower the risk of a heart attack. But high triglyceride levels may be linked to another problem as well: acute pancreatitis, a sudden and potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas.

Danish researchers tracked 116,550 men and women over seven years. The risk for acute pancreatitis increased sharply as triglyceride levels rose. At 177-265 milligrams per deciliter, the risk increased by 130 percent; at levels above 443, the risk increased by 770 percent. The associations remained after controlling for sex, age, alcohol intake, smoking, B.M.I. and other variables. The findings appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Triglyceride levels below 150 are generally considered normal in terms of heart health; in earlier studies, levels above 1,000 were considered to be a risk factor for pancreatitis.

The lead author, Dr. Borge G. Nordestgaard, a clinical professor at the University of Copenhagen, said that the absolute risk of acute pancreatitis is still small for most people.

“I would be more worried about the risk of heart attack, which is higher at the same levels of triglycerides. But patients should be concerned about both diseases if they have high triglyceride readings.”