A triglyceride level is a blood test that measures a type of fat in the blood. Triglycerides are different from cholesterol, which is often measured at the same time.
A triglyceride level may be ordered to see how well the body processes fats. It is usually ordered as part of a lipid profile to help evaluate risk factors for coronary heart disease, or CHD. Triglyceride levels are an independent risk factor for coronary heart disease. This means that a person's risk for CHD is increased whenever triglyceride levels are high.
To perform a triglyceride level, a blood sample is needed. Blood is usually taken from a vein on the forearm or hand. First, the skin over the vein is cleaned with an antiseptic. Next, a strong rubber tube, or tourniquet, is wrapped around the upper arm. This enlarges the veins in the lower arm by restricting blood flow. A fine needle is gently inserted into a vein, and the tourniquet is removed. Blood flows through the needle and is collected in a syringe or vial. After the needle is withdrawn, the puncture site is covered for a short time to prevent bleeding. The blood is then sent to the lab for testing.
An individual is often asked not to eat anything for at least 8 or 12 hours prior to the test.
Triglyceride levels are defined as follows:
Abnormally high triglyceride levels may be due to:
Abnormally low triglyceride levels may indicate the following:
Author:David T. Moran, MD
Editor:Crist, Gayle P., MS, BA
Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN