Triglyceride level

The triglyceride level is a lab test to measure the amount of triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat.

Your body makes some triglycerides. Triglycerides also come from the food you eat. Extra calories are turned into triglycerides and stored in fat cells for later use. If you eat more calories than your body needs, your triglyceride level may be high.

A test for high blood cholesterol levels is a related measurement.

How is the Test Performed?

A blood sample is needed. Most of the time blood is drawn from a vein located on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

Preparation for the Test

You should not eat for 8 to 12 hours before the test.

Alcohol and some medicines can interfere with blood test results.

  • Make sure your doctor knows what medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
  • Your health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines before you have this test.
  • Do not stop or change your medications without talking to your doctor first.

How the Test will Feel

You may feel slight pain or a sting when the needle is inserted. You may also feel some throbbing at the site after the blood is drawn.

Why is the Test Performed?

The most important use of this test is to help estimate your LDL cholesterol. This test is also done to help assess your risk for heart disease. A high triglyceride level may lead to atherosclerosis. This condition increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. A high triglyceride level may also cause inflammation of your pancreas.

Persons with a high triglyceride level often have other conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, that also increase the risk of getting heart disease.

The triglyceride level is usually included in a lipid panel or coronary risk profile.

Normal Results for Triglyceride level


  • Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
  • Borderline High: 150 - 199 mg/dL
  • High: 200 - 499 mg/dL
  • Very High: 500 mg/dL or above

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results.

The examples above show the common measurements for results for these tests. Some laboratories use different measurements or may test different specimens.

What Abnormal Results Mean

High triglyceride levels may be due to:

Low triglyceride levels may be due to:

  • Low fat diet
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Malabsorption syndrome (conditions in which the small intestine does not absorb fats well)
  • Malnutrition

Considerations

Pregnancy can affect test results.

References

Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive summary of the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) expert panel on detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA. 2001;285(19):2486-2497.

Grundy SM, et al. Implications of recent clinical trials for the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. Circulation. 2004 Jul 13; 110(2):227-39.

Semenkovich CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 213.

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Review Date: 5/5/2013
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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