While the precise definition of hypertriglyceridaemia remains contentious, the condition is becoming more common in western populations as the prevalence of obesity and diabetes mellitus rise. Although there is strong epidemiological evidence that hypertriglyceridaemia is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it is has been difficult to demonstrate this by drug intervention studies, as drugs that reduce triglycerides also raise high density lipoprotein cholesterol. Precise target values have also been difficult to agree, although several of the new guidelines for coronary risk management now include triglycerides. The causes of hypertriglyceridaemia are numerous. The more severe forms have a genetic basis, and may lead to an increased risk of pancreatitis. Several types of hypertriglyceridaemia are familial and are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Secondary causes of hypertriglyceridaemia are also numerous and it is important to exclude these before starting treatment with specific triglyceride-lowering agents. Lifestyle management is also very effective and includes weight reduction, restricted alcohol and fat intake and exercise.
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Competing interests: None.