High concentrations of blood fats known as triglycerides are common in the United States, according to a report in Monday’s issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lifestyle changes are the preferred initial treatment for “hypertriglyceridemia” (the resulting condition), but physical inactivity, obesity and other modifiable risk factors remain prevalent.

“Increasing evidence supports triglyceride concentration as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” the authors write.

In a study of 5,610 participants, Earl S. Ford, MD, MPH, and colleagues at the CDC found that 33.1% had a triglyceride concentration of 150 mg/dl or higher. A concentration between 150 and 199 mg/dl is defined as borderline high by the 2001 National Cholesterol Education Program.

Even scarier, 17.9% had a concentration of 200 mg/dl or higher (defined as high), 1.7% had a concentration of 500 mg/dl or higher, and 0.4% had a concentration of 1,000 mg/dl.

Those who had high levels were more likely to be older, white and have no education beyond high school. They were also more likely to smoke, be overweight or obese, and/or have diabetes.

Diet and exercise are the first lines of defense in preventing and treating hypertriglyceridemia. At very high levels, healthcare providers may recommend medication to lower triglyceride levels.

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