What Is the Triglyceride Level Test?
The triglyceride level test helps measure the amount of
triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are a type of fat, or lipid, found
in the blood. The results of this test help your doctor determine your risk of
developing heart disease. Another name for this test is a triacylglycerol test.
Triglycerides are a type of lipid. The body stores calories that
it doesn’t use right away as triglycerides. These triglycerides circulate in
the blood to provide energy for your muscles to work. Extra triglycerides enter
your blood after you eat. If you eat more calories than your body needs, your
triglyceride level may be high.
Very low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs) carry triglycerides through
your blood. VLDL is a type of lipoprotein, like low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). VLDL measurements can be helpful
information to have if you and your doctor are talking about ways to lower your
Why Do I Need the Triglyceride Level Test?
The triglyceride level test will help you determine your risk of
developing heart disease. It helps estimate the level of LDL cholesterol in
your blood. It can determine if you have inflammation in your pancreas and if
you’re at risk of developing atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when fat
builds up inside your arteries. It can increase your risk of having a heart
attack or stroke.
You should have a lipid profile done every five years as part of
your regular medical exam. The lipid profile tests your levels of the
If you’re receiving treatment for a high triglyceride level, your
doctor will order this test more frequently to monitor the effectiveness of
your treatment. If you have prediabetes or diabetes, it’s important to monitor
your triglyceride level regularly because triglycerides will increase when you
aren’t properly maintaining your blood sugar levels.
Children may also need this test if they’re at an increased risk
of developing heart disease. This includes children who are overweight or who have
a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Children
at increased risk of developing heart disease will need this test between 2 and
10 years of age. Children under 2 are too young for testing.
How Do I Prepare for the Triglyceride Test?
You should fast for 9 to 14 hours before the test and drink only
water during that period. Your doctor will specify how much time you should
fast before the test. You should also avoid alcohol for 24 hours before the
Your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medicines before
the test. You should talk to your doctor about the medications you’re taking.
Medications that can affect the test are numerous. They include:
- ascorbic acid
- fish oil
- nicotinic acid
- birth control pills
- protease inhibitors
- some antipsychotics
How Is the Triglyceride Level Test
The test uses a blood sample that a laboratory will analyze. A
healthcare provider will draw blood from a vein in the front of your elbow or
the back of your hand. They’ll follow these steps to get the blood sample:
- First, they’ll clean the site with an antiseptic
and wrap an elastic band around your arm to allow blood to fill the veins.
- They’ll insert a needle into your vein and
collect blood in a tube attached to the needle.
- Once the tube is full, they’ll remove the
elastic band and the needle. They’ll press against the puncture site with a
cotton ball or gauze to stop any bleeding.
A portable machine can also perform this test. The machine
collects a very small sample of blood from a finger stick and analyzes your
triglycerides as part of a lipid panel. You can often find this type of test at
mobile clinics or health fairs.
You can also buy a portable machine to monitor your triglycerides
at home. Another way to monitor your triglycerides at home is to mail a sample
of blood to a laboratory using a prepared kit. You should talk to your doctor
to see if either of these at-home tests is a good option for you.
What Are the Risks Associated with the
Triglyceride Level Test?
You may feel moderate pain or discomfort from the blood test.
However, there are a few risks associated with giving a blood sample. Some
- excessive bleeding
- lightheadedness or fainting
- an accumulation of blood under the skin, which
is called a hematoma
- an infection
What Do the Results Mean?
The following are the basic categories of results for
- A normal fasting level is 150 milligrams per
- A borderline high level is 150 to 199 mg/dL.
- A high level is 200 to 499 mg/dL.
- A very high level is more than 500 mg/dL.
Hypertriglyceridemia is the medical term for elevated
triglycerides in the blood.
Fasting levels normally vary from day to day. Triglycerides vary
dramatically when you eat a meal, and can be 5 to 10 times higher than fasting
You have a risk of developing pancreatitis if your fasting
triglyceride levels are above 1,000 mg/dL. If your triglyceride levels are
above 1,000 mg/dL, you should start immediate treatment to lower triglycerides.
If your triglyceride levels are high, your cholesterol may also
be high. This condition is known as hyperlipidemia.
There are many reasons why your triglyceride level may be high.
Some of them are due to lifestyle habits that increase triglyceride levels.
- having an inactive or sedentary lifestyle
- being overweight or obese
- increasing alcohol consumption or binge drinking
- eating a diet low in protein and high in
There are also medical conditions that can cause high
triglyceride levels, including:
- cirrhosis of the liver
- diabetes, especially if it’s not well-controlled
- genetic factors
- nephrotic syndrome or kidney disease
A low triglyceride level may be due to:
- a low-fat diet
- malabsorption syndrome
Other medical conditions that the triglyceride level test can
- familial combined hyperlipidemia
- familial dysbetalipoproteinemia
- familial hypertriglyceridemia
- familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency
- a stroke as a result of atherosclerosis
Pregnancy can interfere with these test results.
Results mean different things for children. You should talk to
your child’s doctor about the test results to understand what the results mean
and the appropriate course of action.
How Can I Control My Triglyceride Levels?
Studies show that carbohydrates play an important role in
controlling triglyceride level. Diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugar,
can increase triglycerides.
Exercise can also lower triglycerides and increase HDL
cholesterol. Even if you don’t lose weight, exercise can help control your
Clinic recommends changes in lifestyle habits to help treat high
triglyceride levels. The changes include:
- losing weight
- reducing calories
- not eating sugary or refined foods
- choosing healthier fats, such as fats in
plant-based foods or fish
- reducing your alcohol consumption
- getting enough exercise, which is at least 30
minutes at moderate intensity on most days of the week
Treatments that focus on the primary cause for high
triglycerides, such as the following should be strongly considered:
- renal failure
Common medications that can help you control your triglyceride
High triglyceride and high cholesterol levels often occur
together. When this happens, your treatment will focus on lowering both levels through
medication and lifestyle changes.
It’s important to work with your doctor and dietitian to reduce
high triglyceride levels through both medication and lifestyle changes.