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There are many measures of your health your doctor will routinely consider, such as your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. One of these important factors that will often be routinely monitored is your triglyceride levels.
Triglycerides are a type of fat in the blood. When you eat, your body takes any calories that aren’t needed and turns them into triglycerides, which are then stored in fat cells. You may have high triglycerides if you frequently eat more calories than your body uses.
Triglycerides are different from other types of lipids or fat found in the blood. Another common type of fat in the blood is cholesterol, for example.
High triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke and cause pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas.
You may be wondering about the relationship between triglycerides and alcohol. For example, how do they affect one another?
The body breaks down alcohol into triglycerides and cholesterol in the liver. After consuming alcohol, this process can lead to high triglyceride levels in the blood. If your triglyceride levels are too high, they can build up in the liver, causing fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease can lead to many health problems, including heart disease, pancreatitis and diabetes. If you have high triglycerides, it is important to limit your alcohol intake.
How does alcohol work in the body? When you drink alcohol, your bloodstream absorbs it through your stomach and small intestine. Your liver breaks down alcohol and processes it so it can be eliminated from your body. If you drink excessively over a long time, you may experience liver damage and negative heart effects.
Triglycerides can increase by drinking alcohol. Beer and liquor especially can raise triglycerides. Additionally, excessive drinking can increase cholesterol, damage the pancreas and contribute to pancreatitis and diabetes.
Why does alcohol raise triglycerides? First, alcohol has a lot of calories and sugar that can increase triglyceride levels in the body. Additionally, when you drink too much alcohol, it can cause more fatty acids to flow to the liver.
Your liver processes alcohol, which impacts how your body processes fats. Alcohol can disrupt the balance of lipid metabolism in a few ways. In a healthy scenario, your liver is responsible for managing the levels of different fats in your body, including triglycerides and cholesterol. It regulates the production, storage and release of these fats based on your body’s needs.
Alcohol can interfere with this balance. It stimulates the liver to produce more triglycerides. While you need some triglycerides for good health, too many can lead to conditions like pancreatitis and heart disease. Alcohol can also affect the levels of cholesterol in your body. Heavy drinking can increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or ‘bad’ cholesterol, potentially contributing to heart disease.
Another way alcohol impacts lipid metabolism is by reducing the body’s ability to break down and remove fats. This can lead to fat accumulation in the liver, resulting in a condition known as fatty liver disease. Over time, this can progress to more severe liver disease and other health problems.
Some genetic factors can cause your body to produce more triglycerides or reduce the efficiency of how you break down these fats, leading to higher levels in the blood. As alcohol is high in calories and sugar, it often contributes to this problem by providing excess energy that the body converts into triglycerides.
If someone is genetically predisposed to have high triglycerides, drinking alcohol could exacerbate this condition, causing these levels to rise even more. Over time, high levels of triglycerides can contribute to the hardening and thickening of artery walls, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease and heart attack.
High triglycerides, whether caused by your diet or by alcohol use, can lead to many negative health consequences. They can lead to fatty buildups that impact your circulation or the health of important organs.
High levels of triglycerides in your blood increase your risk of developing atherosclerosis, where your arteries become narrow due to fatty deposits. These fatty deposits can reduce or block blood flow. They can also break off and travel to other parts of your body. This can lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Alcohol can cause fat to build up in your liver, leading to alcoholic fatty liver disease. High triglycerides contribute to this buildup of fat. While fatty liver disease is not likely to cause major problems beyond fatigue, it leads to inflammation and scarring of your liver. These can both significantly impact your health. Liver scarring, called cirrhosis, is permanent and often becomes fatal.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, an organ that plays a crucial role in digestion and metabolism. Both alcohol and high triglycerides can independently increase your risk of pancreatitis. Combined, they further increase the risk of pancreatitis. While pancreatitis is highly painful, it also can be dangerous and increase your risk of health complications, potentially becoming fatal.
High triglycerides can lead to insulin resistance, where your body isn’t effectively using the insulin hormone to control your blood sugar. Insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes. This condition increases your risk of major complications, including kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage and blindness.
High triglycerides can contribute to the buildup of plaques in your arteries, reducing blood flow to your limbs and leading to peripheral arterial disease. This condition can cause leg pain when walking and increase the risk of infection and injuries in the legs and feet.
Triglycerides are linked to cardiovascular and heart health. While it’s believed that certain types of alcohol, like wine, help heart health, that may not always be the case. It’s important to realize that when it comes to drinking alcohol, moderation is extremely important, and many people misunderstand how little alcohol is considered moderate drinking.
Additionally, researchers can’t confirm the benefits of alcohol for heart health because current studies do not show a causal link. The American Heart Association does not recommend drinking alcohol to improve heart health.
While moderation is key for healthy alcohol consumption, if you have an alcohol use disorder, moderation may not be possible. It may be better for you to go through medical alcohol detox at an accredited rehab facility like The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake to ensure your recovery.
If you have high triglyceride levels or are at risk of having high levels, several lifestyle changes can help. Some of the lifestyle changes that assist with triglycerides management include:
If you feel you have a problematic relationship with alcohol, it can affect every aspect of your physical and mental health. Reach out to The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake to find help for alcoholism or problem drinking.
Additionally, you can also find treatment options for alcohol abuse by:
Many people incorrectly believe there are health benefits to drinking wine regularly. Wine will increase your triglyceride levels like other types of alcohol. The purported health benefits of wine are primarily due to the grapes it contains, not the alcohol. The same type of benefit could likely be obtained by drinking fresh grape juice each day.
Alcohol increases your triglyceride levels within hours of drinking. While they typically drop after the alcohol has worn off, frequent drinking gradually elevates your baseline triglyceride levels over time.
Research shows that even one or two alcoholic beverages can increase triglyceride levels over the short term. While any amount of alcohol can impact your triglyceride levels, frequent heavy alcohol use likely causes a sustained elevation in your triglyceride levels, leading to the ensuing complications they can create.
A healthier life is possible for you. To learn more about alcohol treatment at The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake, call us today.
Because alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous – and even kill you – make sure you have medical advice from your doctor or a rehab facility when you decide to stop drinking.
There are many misconceptions about alcoholism that make it sound like an alcoholic is an easy person to spot, however, many alcoholics function effectively and lead relatively normal lives.
An alcohol abuse problem can include binge drinking, having negative consequences such as hangovers with your drinking but continuing anyway, and drinking despite the desire to stop.
In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 44% of respondents reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to ease uncomfortable feelings that stem from underlying anxiety.
Drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but extended binge drinking or regular alcohol consumption can cause a permanent increase in blood pressure.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “High Blood Triglycerides“>High Blo[…]Triglycerides.” April 19, 2023. Accessed July 6, 2023.
Pownall, Henry J.; Ballantyne, Christie M.; & et al. “Effect of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Hypertriglyceridemia“>Effect o[…]iglyceridemia.” JAMA Internal Medicine. May 10, 1999. Accessed July 6, 2023.
Andrade, Ana C.M.; Cesena, Fernando H.Y.; & et al. “Short-Term Red Wine Consumption Promotes Differential Effects on Plasma Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, Sympathetic Activity, and Endothelial Function in Hypercholesterolemic, Hypertensive, and Healthy Subjects“>Short-Te[…]lthy Subjects.” Clinics (Sao Paulo). May 2009. Accessed July 6, 2023.
The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.
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