VLDL stands for very low-density lipoprotein. VLDL carries triglycerides in the blood and, to a lesser extent, cholesterol. High levels of VLDL are associated with a type of blood vessel disease called atherosclerosis. Like LDL (low density lipoprotein), VLDL levels should be kept relatively low to help prevent blood vessel disease and to help prevent heart attack and stroke. Pieces of VLDL that contain triglycerides can move into the wall of blood vessels and can do damage and cause disease. VLDL also promotes inflammation of the blood vessel wall. Since VLDL is mostly made up of triglycerides, the easiest way to lower VLDL is to lower triglycerides. People can lower their VLDL level by getting aerobic exercise and reducing the amount of sugary foods they eat, and taking certain types of cholesterol-lowering medications.
Normal Ranges for VLDL:
- Men: Less than 30 mg/dL
- Women: Less than 30 mg/dL
- Children to up 18 years of age: Less than 30 mg/dL
- Critical Range: N/A
Laboratories do not report a level of VLDL that is too low. Nevertheless, chronic infections and certain autoimmune diseases can cause very low triglyceride levels and, in turn VLDL levels. In rare cases, low VLDL is caused by a genetic condition. It is also possible that they are experiencing a severe disease such as cancer or severe anemia. Low VLDL levels do not cause symptoms on their own, but the disease that is causing the low VLDL will cause its own, specific symptoms.
Some specific causes of a low VLDL are:
- Hereditary abetalipoproteinemia
- Hepatitis (chronic, active hepatitis B, hepatitis C)
- Malnutrition and undernutrition
A high VLDL level often means that someone has too many triglycerides in the blood. Most patients will not experience any symptoms. They only way they will know if they have high VLDL is through a blood test. If symptoms do occur, which can happen at very high cholesterol levels, high VLDL may cause collections of cholesterol under the skin of the hands and around the eyes called xanthomas. At very high levels of triglycerides, people can have pancreatitis, a serious inflammation of the pancreas.
Some specific causes of a high VLDL are:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Alcohol overuse
- Nephrotic syndrome
- Estrogen replacement therapy
- Diabetes mellitus
- Certain drugs such as tamoxifen and beta blockers
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