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Understanding triglycerides and cholesterol.

There is often confusion around the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol. Triglycerides and cholesterol both belong to a group of fats, also known
as lipids, which play an essential role in your body.

What are triglycerides?

Triglycerides store unused calories to give your body energy and are the most common type of fat in the body—but in very high amounts they can be harmful.

Triglycerides come from foods that you eat such as butter, oils and other fats. Your body can also make triglycerides from the extra calories that you eat such as carbohydrates, sugars and alcohol. Triglycerides affect both men and women so it’s important to get tested.

Why should I be concerned
about very high triglycerides?

Patients with very high triglycerides may be at higher risk for serious medical conditions.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a biological building block that your body uses to make hormones and substances that help you digest the food you eat. They mostly come from animal and dairy sources such as meat, poultry with skin, cream, butter, cheese and other whole fat dairy products. If you are trying to lower your cholesterol, you should reduce saturated fat and trans fat by limiting your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk.

Why should I be concerned
about high cholesterol?

When a certain type of cholesterol,
also known as LDL-C, is high, patients may be at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

Very high triglycerides and bad cholesterol
are both very important to treat.

If diet and exercise are not successful, doctors most commonly prescribe a class of drugs called statins (e.g., Atorvastatin, Simvastatin, or Rosuvastatin) to lower bad cholesterol (LDL-C).

When your triglycerides are very high, your doctor may prescribe a different type of medication like VASCEPA, which is the first and only prescription EPA treatment approved by the FDA to lower very high triglycerides.

Couple cooking together

Knowing your
triglyceride levels.

You may not feel any symptoms of very high triglycerides so it's important to see your doctor and get blood work done regularly. If yours are very high, talk to your doctor about prescription VASCEPA along with a healthier diet and exercise.

Triglyceride levels are defined as follows1:

  • Very high 
    500 mg/dL or higher
  • High 
    200 to 499 mg/dL
  • Borderline-high 
    150 to 199 mg/dL
  • Normal 
    less than 150 mg/dL

1NIH MedlinePlus Cholesterol 2018, NIH MedlinePlus Triglycerides Test 2017.

What are the causes?

From a high carbohydrate diet to lack of exercise, there are many causes of very high triglycerides. Here are some ways that triglyceride levels may become very high:

Poor Diet


What you eat and drink affects your triglyceride level, especially alcohol and processed carbohydrates.

Lack of Exercise

Lack of Exercise

Not burning as many calories as you take in may have an impact on your triglycerides.

Medical Conditions

Medical Conditions

Health conditions, such as diabetes, change how your body processes food.

Specific Drugs

Specific Drugs

Drugs, including estrogen tablets and blood pressure medications.



People with a family history of very high triglycerides may be more likely to develop them.

Learn how VASCEPA can help lower
very high triglycerides.


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VASCEPA is a prescription medicine used:

  • along with certain medicines (statins) to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and certain types of heart issues requiring hospitalization in adults with heart (cardiovascular) disease, or diabetes and 2 or more additional risk factors for heart disease.
  • along with a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet to lower high levels of triglycerides (fats) in adults.

It is not known if VASCEPA changes your risk of having inflammation of your pancreas (pancreatitis).

It is not known if VASCEPA is safe and effective in children.



  • Do not take VASCEPA if you are allergic to icosapent ethyl or any of the ingredients in VASCEPA.


VASCEPA may cause serious side effects, including:

  • Heart rhythm problems (atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter).  Heart rhythm problems which can be serious and cause hospitalization have happened in people who take VASCEPA, especially in people who have heart (cardiovascular) disease or diabetes with a risk factor for heart (cardiovascular) disease, or who have had heart rhythm problems in the past.  Tell your doctor if you get any symptoms of heart rhythm problems such as feeling as if your heart is beating fast and irregular, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort or you faint.
  • Possible allergic reactions if you are allergic to fish or shellfish.  Stop taking VASCEPA and tell your doctor right away or get emergency medical help if you have any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Bleeding.  Serious bleeding can happen in people who take VASCEPA.  Your risk of bleeding may increase if you are also taking a blood thinner medicine.

If you have liver problems and are taking VASCEPA, your doctor should do blood tests during treatment.

The most common side effects of VASCEPA include:

  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Swelling of the hands, legs, or feet
  • Constipation
  • Gout
  • Heart rhythm problems (atrial fibrillation)

These are not all the possible side effects of VASCEPA. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects.

You may report adverse events (i.e. side effects) or product complaints by calling 1-855-VASCEPA (1-855-827-2372), emailing [email protected], or calling the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Tell your doctor if you take medicines that affect your blood clotting (anticoagulants or blood thinners).

For more information on VASCEPA, click here to see the full Patient Information or call 1-855-VASCEPA (1-855-827-2372).

Trademarks are owned by their respective companies; VASCEPA, Amarin, and VASCEPA/Amarin logos are registered trademarks of the Amarin group of companies.

©2020 Amarin Pharma, Inc. Bridgewater, NJ, USA. All rights reserved.

VAS-01935v6   04/2020

This website, vascepa.com, vascepahcp.com, vascepasavings.com, truetoyourheart.com, and the corporation's website (amarincorp.com), are the only company-sanctioned websites pertaining to the Amarin group of companies or its product, Vascepa® (icosapent ethyl) capsules. The Amarin group of companies is not responsible for material contained on other non-Amarin controlled websites or other social media sites.