AIMS: This review aims to describe the pathogenic role of triglycerides in cardiometabolic risk, and the potential role of omega-3 fatty acids in the management of hypertriglyceridemia and cardiovascular disease.
DATA SYNTHESIS: In epidemiological studies, hypertriglyceridemia correlates with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, even after adjustment for low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. This has been further supported by Mendelian randomization studies where triglyceride-raising common single nucleotide polymorphisms confer an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Although guidelines vary in their definition of hypertriglyceridemia, they consistently define a normal triglyceride level as <150 mg/dL (or <1.7 mmol/L). For patients with moderately elevated triglyceride levels, LDL-C remains the primary target for treatment in both European and US guidelines. However, since any triglyceride level in excess of normal increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, even in patients with optimally managed LDL-C levels, triglycerides are an important secondary target in both assessment and treatment. Dietary changes are a key element of first-line lifestyle intervention, but pharmacological treatment including omega-3 fatty acids may be indicated in people with persistently high triglyceride levels. Moreover, in patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, omega-3 supplements significantly reduce the risk of sudden death, cardiac death and myocardial infarction and are generally well tolerated.
CONCLUSIONS: Targeting resistant hypertriglyceridemia should be considered as a part of clinical management of cardiovascular risk. Omega-3 fatty acids may represent a valuable resource to this aim.