At a glance

Also known as

TG; TRIG; Trigs

Why get tested?

To assess the risk of developing heart disease

When to get tested?

As part of a lipid profile during a medical examination or if you are being treated for high triglycerides

Sample required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein

Test preparation needed?

The test for triglycerides should be done when you are fasting

What is being tested?

This test measures the amount of triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are the body's storage form for fat. Most triglycerides are found in adipose (fat) tissue. Some triglycerides circulate in the blood to provide fuel for muscles to work. Extra triglycerides are found in the blood after eating a meal — when fat is being sent from the gut to adipose tissue for storage. Ideally, the test for triglycerides should be done when you are fasting and no extra triglycerides from a recent meal are present.

How is the sample collected for testing?

The test for triglycerides uses a blood sample. Most often, the blood sample is collected using a needle to collect blood from a vein.

Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?

The test for triglycerides should be done when you are fasting. For 9 to 12 hours before the test, only water is permitted. In addition, alcohol should not be consumed for the 24 hours just before the test.

The Test

How is it used?

Blood tests for triglycerides are usually part of a lipid profile used to identify the risk of developing heart disease. If you are diabetic, it is especially important to have triglycerides measured as part of any lipid testing since triglycerides increase significantly when blood sugar is out of control.

When is it requested?

Lipid profiles, including triglycerides, are recommended as routine tests to evaluate risk of heart disease. The test for triglycerides is not often ordered alone since risk of heart disease is based on cholesterol levels (see cholesterol, HDL, LDL), not triglycerides. However, if you have been found to have high triglycerides and are being treated for it, a triglyceride test may be used to see if treatment is working.

What does the test result mean?

Looking for reference ranges?

If you have a high fasting triglyceride level, your doctor may wish to find out whether you have a high fat diet, a high intake of alcohol or have diabetes. It is unusual to have high triglycerides without also having high cholesterol. Having high lipids may increase your risk of developing heart disease and you may be given treatment aimed at lowering your lipid levels. The type of treatment used may differ depending on whether cholesterol, triglycerides, or both are high.

When triglycerides are very high, there is a risk of developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

Is there anything else I should know?

Testing should be done when you are fasting. For 9 to 12 hours before the test, only water is permitted. In addition, alcohol should not be consumed for the 24 hours just before the test.

If you are diabetic and your blood sugar is out of control, triglycerides may be very high.

Triglycerides may change dramatically in response to meals. Even fasting levels vary considerably day to day. Therefore modest changes in fasting triglycerides measured on different days are not considered to be abnormal.

Certain drugs such as corticosteroids, protease inhibitors for HIV, beta blockers, and oestrogens can increase blood triglyceride levels.

Common Questions

What type of diet is best for optimal triglyceride levels?

Since triglycerides are circulating forms of fat, you might think that a high fat diet will raise triglycerides and a low fat diet would lower triglycerides. However, carbohydrate is also a very important dietary predictor of triglycerides. Diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugar, lead to increases in triglycerides.

What drug treatments are recommended for uncontrolled triglyceride levels?

For many people, uncontrolled triglycerides are caused by disorders such as diabetes, obesity, kidney failure, or alcoholism. Therefore the treatment strategy is to treat the primary cause. When high triglycerides are not caused by another disorder, they are often seen together with high cholesterol. Treatment is directed toward lowering both cholesterol and triglycerides. If diet fails, drug treatment is generally recommended.

Can exercise help with triglyceride levels?

Yes. Exercise is especially helpful in lowering triglycerides and raising HDL (which tends to decrease when triglycerides increase). Even in the absence of weight loss, exercise will help you lower both LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while raising HDL cholesterol.

Can I monitor triglyceride levels at home?

There are currently no products available to monitor triglycerides at home.

Last Review Date: September 21, 2013