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.
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.
- 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 the Test is Performed
The results of this test are used of this test is to help estimate your LDL cholesterol. This test is also done to help determine your risk of developing heart disease. A high triglyceride level may lead to atherosclerosis, which increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
A high triglyceride level may also cause swelling of your pancreas (called pancreatitis).
The triglyceride level is usually included in a lipid panel or coronary risk profile.
- 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:
- Cirrhosis or liver damage
- Diet low in protein and high in carbohydrates
- Underactive thyroid
- Nephrotic syndrome (a kidney disorder)
- Other medicines such as female hormones
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Disorder passed down through families in which there are high amounts of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
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:
- Low fat diet
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Malabsorption syndrome (conditions in which the small intestine does not absorb fats well)
Pregnancy can affect test results.
Miller M, Stone NJ, Ballantyne C, et al. Triglycerides and Cardiovascular Disease: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123:2292-2333
Miller M, Stone NJ, Ballantyne C, Bittner V, Criqui MH, Ginsberg HN, Goldberg AC, Howard WJ, Jacobson MS, Kris-Etherton PM, Lennie TA, Levi M, Mazzone T, Pennathur S; American Heart Association Clinical Lipidology, Thrombosis, and Prevention Committee of the Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Cardiovascular Nursing; Council on the Kidney in Cardiovascular Disease. Circulation. 2011 May 24;123(20):2292-333. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0b013e3182160726. Epub 2011 Apr 18. No abstract available.
Semenkovich CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 213.
Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, Goff DC Jr, Lloyd-Jones DM, Smith SC Jr, et al. Treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk in adults: synopsis of the 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association cholesterol guideline. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Mar 4;160(5):339-43.
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.