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 health care provider knows what medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
- Your provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines before you have this test.
- DO NOT stop or change your medicines without talking to your provider 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
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 of heart attack and stroke.
A high triglyceride level may also cause swelling of your pancreas (called pancreatitis).
Results may indicate:
- Normal: Less than 150 mg/dL
- Borderline high: 150 to 199 mg/dL
- High: 200 to 499 mg/dL
- Very high: 500 mg/dL or above
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:
- 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(20):2292-2333 PMID: 21502576 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21502576.
Semenkovich CF. Disorders of lipid metabolism. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 206.
Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, 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;160(5):339-343. PMID: 24474185 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24474185.
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.