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What is Triglycerides test?

Triglycerides are one of the most common types of fats, which account for about 95% of all fats in a normal diet. These fats make an important source of energy for body cells; however, excess triglycerides contribute to total body fats and obesity or overweight. They also increase the risk of various cardiovascular diseases.

So, a triglyceride test is done to measure the levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream and to determine if a person is at risk of heart diseases. It is generally done as a part of the lipid panel or lipid profile test

  1. Why is a Triglycerides test performed?
  2. How do you prepare for Triglycerides test?
  3. How is a Triglycerides test performed?
  4. What do Triglycerides test results mean?

Triglycerides test is recommended for all adults once every 5 years as high levels of triglycerides are linked with an increased risk of disorders, such as diabetes, heart diseases and stroke. However, it may also be ordered in case of the following conditions:

  • Poor lifestyle habits, such as excessive use of alcohol, no exercise, smoking or eating too many fatty foods
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight, with excess weight around the stomach
  • Certain genetic conditions, such as familial combined hyperlipidaemia and familial hypertriglyceridaemia
  • Disorders, such as thyroid, kidney and liver diseases
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • To check the progress of certain treatments

Your healthcare provider would let you know if you need to fast before the test. A fasting period of about 8 to 12 hours is generally followed. Though you may be allowed to drink water and take medicines during this time. 

Make sure that your doctor knows about all the medicines, over-the-counter drugs or supplements if you are taking any, since they may interfere with test results. He/she may tell you if a change in the course of any medicine is required. Do not stop taking any medicine without the consent of a doctor.

It is a short test, which involves withdrawing a small amount of blood from a vein in your arm. At the testing centre, the lab technician will first clean a part of your upper arm with a sterile fluid. They will then tie a tourniquet or elastic band around that arm, to be able to locate a blood vessel. A blood sample will then be withdrawn using a sterile needle. This step might cause some amount of discomfort to a few people, but it will subside soon.

After withdrawing blood, the technician will cover the area of puncture with a bandage and the sample will be delivered to a lab for testing. Some people experience a slight amount of bruising at the site of needle insertion, though this will not be typically painful and will fade away on its own.

Normal results:

The values of triglycerides test are given in terms of mg/dL or sometimes mmol/L. However, they defer from one laboratory to another. Here the values are mentioned in terms of mg/dL.

Normal values are usually under 150 mg/dL, which could mean that triglyceride levels in your bloodstream are under control, and you may not be facing a risk of heart disease or diabetes.

Abnormal results:

Triglycerides levels higher than the normal range are considered abnormal. The following is the correlation between triglyceride values and the risks associated with it:

  • 151 to 199 mg/dL indicates a moderate risk
  • 200 to 499 mg/dL indicates a high risk
  • Any value above 500 mg/dL is an indication of very high risk

Conditions associated with high triglyceride levels are as follows: 

Low levels of thyroid hormone or dysfunction of the liver (cirrhosis) and kidneys (nephrotic syndrome) can also lead to high triglyceride levels. Furthermore, low protein and high carbohydrate diet could be a reason for the increased values. Certain female hormonal medicines might also be one of the contributors.

Your doctor might recommend some dietary and lifestyle changes to control mildly higher values of triglycerides. To control high and very high levels of triglycerides, he/she may advise you to take certain medications.

Disclaimer: All results must be clinically correlated with the patient’s complaints to make a complete and accurate diagnosis. The above information is provided from a purely educational point of view and is in no way a substitute for medical advice by a qualified doctor.

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References

  1. Better health channel. Department of Health and Human Services [internet]. State government of Victoria; Triglycerides
  2. Cleveland Clinic. [Internet]. Cleveland, Ohio. Triglycerides
  3. University of Rochester Medical Center. Triglycerides. Rochester, New York. [internet].
  4. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; High Blood Triglycerides
  5. University of California San Francisco [Internet]. San Francisco, CA: Department of medicine; Triglyceride Level
  6. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Blood Tests