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Triglyceride level


Alternative Names:

Triacylglycerol test

How the test is performed:

A blood sample is needed.

How to prepare for the test:

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

Alcohol and certain drugs may affect test results. Make sure your doctor knows what medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medicines for a little while. Never stop taking any medicine without first talking to your doctor.

Drugs that can increase triglyceride measurements include beta blockers, cholestyramine, colestipol, estrogens, protease inhibitors, retinoids, thiazide diuretics, certain antipsychotics, and birth control pills.

Drugs that can decrease triglyceride measurements include ascorbic acid, asparaginase, clofibrate, fish oil, and statin medications.

Why the test is performed:

The most important use 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 inflammation of your pancreas.

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

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

Normal Values:
  • 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
What the risks are:

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another, and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others. Other risks may include:

  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fainting or feeling light-headed
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)
Special considerations:

Pregnancy can interfere with 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.

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, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 213.


Review Date: 6/3/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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