Harvard Heart Letter

The lesser-known fat in your blood

Emerging evidence suggests that high triglycerides play a bigger role in heart disease than previously thought.

When you have a test to measure the fats in your blood (known as a lipid panel), the two numbers that get the most attention are the levels of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol. High levels of LDL (as well as low levels of HDL) track closely with the artery-clogging process at the root of most cases of coronary artery disease. But triglycerides—the most common type of fat both in food and in the bloodstream—are often an afterthought, mostly because their relevance to cardiovascular disease has been uncertain.

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