Triglyceride level

Definition

The triglyceride level is a blood 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.

Alternative Names

Triacylglycerol test

How the Test is 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.

How to Prepare 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.

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 the Test is Performed

Triglycerides are usually measured together with other blood fats. Often it is done to help determine your risk of developing heart disease. A high triglyceride level may lead to atherosclerosis, which increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.

A very high triglyceride level may also cause swelling of your pancreas (called pancreatitis).

Normal Results

Results may indicate:

Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your provider 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:

Overall, the treatment of elevated triglyceride levels focuses on increased exercise and changes in the diet. Drugs to lower triglyceride levels may be used to prevent pancreatitis for levels above 500 mg/dL.

Low triglyceride levels may be due to:

Considerations

Pregnancy can affect test results.

References

Arnett DK, Blumenthal RS, Albert MA, et al. 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;140(11):e596-e646. PMID: 30879355 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30879355/.

Chen X, Zhou L, Hussain MM. Lipids and dyslipoproteinemia. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 17.

Genest J, Libby P. Lipoprotein disorders and cardiovascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 48.

Grundy SM, Stone NJ, Bailey AL, et al. 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2019;139(25):e1046-e1081. PMID: 30565953 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30565953/.

Ridker PM, Libby P, Buring JE. Risk markers and the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann, DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 45.

Robinson JG. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 195.


Review Date: 7/30/2020
Reviewed By: Thomas S. Metkus, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update 09/28/2021.
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