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Triglycerides

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Also known as: TG; TRIG
Formal name: Triglycerides

At a Glance

Why Get Tested?

To assess the risk of developing heart disease

When to Get Tested?

As part of a lipid profile during a regular medical exam (at least once every five years for adults; for children, at least once between the ages of 9 and 11 and again between the ages of 17 and 21); more frequently if you have risk factors for heart disease or if you are being treated for high triglycerides

Sample Required?

A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm or a fingerstick

Test Preparation Needed?

Current standards recommend that testing 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 24 hours just before the test. Follow any instructions you are given.

The Test Sample

What is being tested?

Triglycerides are a form of fat and a major source of energy for the body. This test measures the amount of triglycerides in the blood.

Most triglycerides are found in fat (adipose) tissue, but some triglycerides circulate in the blood to provide fuel for muscles to work. After a person eats, an increased level of triglycerides is found in the blood as the body converts the energy not needed right away into fat. Triglycerides move via the blood from the gut to adipose tissue for storage. In between meals, triglycerides are released from fat tissue to be used as an energy source for the body. Most triglycerides are carried in the blood by lipoproteins called very low density lipoproteins (VLDL).

High levels of triglycerides in the blood are associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), although the reason for this is not well understood. Certain factors can contribute to high triglyceride levels and to risk of CVD, including lack of exercise, being overweight, smoking cigarettes, consuming excess alcohol, and medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.

How is the sample collected for testing?

A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm. Sometimes a drop of blood is collected by puncturing the skin on a fingertip. This fingerstick sample is typically used when a lipid profile (total cholesterol, HDL-C, LDL-C and TG) is being measured on a portable testing device, for example, at a health fair.

NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.

Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.

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

Current standards recommend that testing 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 24 hours just before the test. Follow any instructions you are given.

The Test

Common Questions

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Article Sources

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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.

Sources Used in Current Review

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). Sep 2002. PDF available for download at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atp3full.pdf through http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Accessed July 21, 2013

American Heart Association. Getting Healthy -Triglycerides. Available online at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Triglycerides_UCM_306029_Article.jsp through http://www.heart.org. Accessed July 21, 2013.

(November 2012) American Association of Family Physicians. High Cholesterol. Available online at http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/high-cholesterol.html through http://familydoctor.org. Accessed July 19, 2013.

Kavey R-EW, et al. Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics 2011; 128: DOI:10.1542/peds.2009-2107C. PDF available for download at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/site/misc/2009-2107.pdf through http://pediatrics.aappublications.org. Accessed July 2013.

Citkowitz E. Hypertriglyceridemia. Medscape Reference article, updated August 2, 2012. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/126568-overview#a0199 through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed September 2013.

Gardner T. Acute Pancreatitis. Medscape Reference article, updated September 3, 2013. Available online at http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/181364-overview through http://emedicine.medscape.com. Accessed September 2013.

Sources Used in Previous Reviews

Thomas, Clayton L., Editor (1997). Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, PA [18th Edition].

Pagana, Kathleen D. & Pagana, Timothy J. (2001). Mosby's Diagnostic and Laboratory Test Reference 5th Edition: Mosby, Inc., Saint Louis, MO.

American Heart Association. What are healthy levels of cholesterol? Available online at http://216.185.112.5/presenter.jhtml?identifier=183.

American Heart Association. Cholesterol, Home testing devices. Available online at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4501 through http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed August 2007.

American Heart Association. Triglycerides. Available online at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4778 through http://www.americanheart.org. Accessed September 2008.

Pagana K, Pagana T. Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. 3rd Edition, St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier; 2006. Pp 513-515.

(May 2001) 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). PDF available for download at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/atp3full.pdf through http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov. Accessed September 2008.

(April 23, 2007) Mayo Clinic. VLDL cholesterol: What is it? Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vldl-cholesterol/AN01335 through http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed September 2008.

(June 21, 2008) Mayo Clinic. Triglycerides: Why do they matter? Available online at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/triglycerides/CL00015 through http://www.mayoclinic.com. Accessed September 2008.

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