Triglyceride Test (Lowering Your Triglycerides)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Triglyceride test facts
- Triglycerides are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats.
- The triglyceride test measures the level of triglycerides in the blood.
- Fasting for 9 to 12 hours before the triglyceride test is required.
- Elevated triglyceride levels may be a risk factor for atherosclerosis. Highly elevated triglyceride levels may also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.
- High triglyceride levels can also be associated with diabetes, kidney disease, and the use of some medications.
- Normal triglyceride levels in the blood are less than 150 mg per deciliter (mg/dL).
- Triglyceride levels can be controlled to some extent by lifestyle modifications and, when necessary, medications.
What are triglycerides?
Triglycerides are chemical compounds digested by the body to provide it with the energy for metabolism. Triglycerides are the most common form of fat in the body. They are the main ingredient in vegetable oils and animal fats.
The triglyceride molecule is a form of the chemical glycerol (tri=three molecules of fatty acid + glyceride=glycerol) that contains three fatty acids. To be absorbed, these parts are broken apart in the small intestine, and afterwards are reassembled with cholesterol to form chylomicrons. This is the source of energy for cells in the body. Fat cells and liver cells are used as storage sites and release chylomicrons when the body needs the energy.
Elevated triglyceride levels are a risk factor for atherosclerosis, the narrowing of arteries with the buildup of fatty plaques that may lead to heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. Markedly elevated triglyceride levels may also cause fatty liver disease and pancreatitis.
Elevated triglyceride levels in the blood may be caused by certain diseases and conditions including:
- Poorly-controlled diabetes
- Kidney disease
- Cirrhosis of the liver or other liver diseases
- Some medications (for example, beta blockers, diuretics, birth control pills)
Alcohol consumption can raise triglyceride blood levels by causing the liver to produce more fatty acids. However, there are some beneficial aspects of moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one alcoholic beverage per day (a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, or an ounce of hard liquor), that may balance this triglyceride rise. Moderate alcohol consumption may mildly increase HDL (the good cholesterol) levels in the bloodstream and red wine, which contains antioxidants, may decrease the risk of heart disease. However, it is not recommended that people start to drink alcohol to obtain these effects.
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