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This article waslast modified on 10 June 2021.
At a Glance
Why Get Tested?

As part of a full lipid profile to assess the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, or to look for an underlying cause for a condition called pancreatitis

When To Get Tested?

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

Sample Required?

A blood sample taken from a vein in the arm

Test Preparation Needed?

None. Fasting is not routinely required when checking triglyceride concentration (the guidance on this changed in 2014). However, there may be circumstances when fasting is still required, so follow your doctor's advice.

On average it takes 7 working days for the blood test results to come back from the hospital, depending on the exact tests requested. Some specialist test results may take longer, if samples have to be sent to a reference (specialist) laboratory. The X-ray & scan results may take longer. If you are registered to use the online services of your local practice, you may be able to access your results online. Your GP practice will be able to provide specific details.

If the doctor wants to see you about the result(s), you will be offered an appointment. If you are concerned about your test results, you will need to arrange an appointment with your doctor so that all relevant information including age, ethnicity, health history, signs and symptoms, laboratory and other procedures (radiology, endoscopy, etc.), can be considered.

Lab Tests Online-UK is an educational website designed to provide patients and carers with information on laboratory tests used in medical care. We are not a laboratory and are unable to comment on an individual's health and treatment.

Reference ranges are dependent on many factors, including patient age, sex, sample population, and test method, and numeric test results can have different meanings in different laboratories.

For these reasons, you will not find reference ranges for the majority of tests described on this web site. The lab report containing your test results should include the relevant reference range for your test(s). Please consult your doctor or the laboratory that performed the test(s) to obtain the reference range if you do not have the lab report.

For more information on reference ranges, please read Reference Ranges and What They Mean.

What is being tested?

This test measures the amount of triglycerides in your blood. Triglycerides are the body's storage form of fat. Most triglycerides are found in fat (adipose) tissue, but some 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 fat tissue for storage. Triglycerides are the ‘saturated’ and ‘unsaturated’ fats you read about on food labels.

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Common Questions
  • How is it used?

    The most common reason for checking triglycerides is as part of a lipid profile to estimate risk of development of cardiovascular disease. Triglycerides are a form of lipid (fat), and are therefore included as part of a lipid profile. However, unlike cholesterol, which is very clearly an important cause of cardiovascular disease, the relationship between triglycerides and cardiovascular disease is less marked but still important. Therefore it is better to aim to keep your blood triglyceride concentrations low, particularly if you are at risk of cardiovascular disease for another reason.

    Having high triglycerides can also lead to a serious medical condition called pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas gland. Therefore, if you get pancreatitis, triglyceride concentrations in the bloodstream should be checked to see if this is the cause. There are many other causes however.

  • When is it requested?

    Lipid profile, including triglycerides, is commonly tested by your GP when you reach the age of 40, as part of a routine cardiovascular health check. It will also be checked if you are already thought to be at risk of cardiovascular disease for another reason, such as having diabetes, high blood pressure, being a smoker, or being overweight.

    Due to the link between high triglycerides and pancreatitis, triglyceride concentrations will be checked if you are diagnosed with this condition.

  • What does the test result mean?

    Having high triglycerides is thought to put you at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This may also be because high triglycerides can be associated with an underlying condition, such as diabetes or obesity, which also increases cardiovascular risk.

    If your triglyceride concentration is very high (e.g. at least 10-15 mmol/L), this indicates you are at risk of pancreatitis. In these circumstances, it is important to try and lower your triglyceride levels, which might involve either drugs or lifestyle changes, depending on the cause.

    There are many factors which can cause high triglycerides. Examples include a high fat or high sugar diet, high intake of alcohol, obesity and diabetes. Lifestyle changes can therefore be very effective in reducing triglyceride levels. Drug treatments are also available if lifestyle changes are insufficient. There are also genetic factors which increase triglyceride levels.

  • Is there anything else I should know?

    If you are diabetic and your blood glucose concentrations are out of control, triglyceride concentrations will be very high.

    Triglyceride levels in the blood may change dramatically after a meal. Even fasting levels vary considerably from day to day. Because of the day to day variation modest changes in fasting triglycerides measured on different days are not considered to be unusual or abnormal.

    There are rare genetic conditions resulting in very high levels of triglyceride from birth resulting in pancreatitis in childhood (lipoprotein lipase deficiency or familial chylomicronaemia syndrome). An RNA treatment is now available for this condition however management is mostly based on very low fat diets.

  • Don't I need to fast before having my triglycerides measured?

    Previously, fasting for 12 hours was recommended, as triglycerides increase after a meal for several hours. However, studies now show that readings after a meal are just as useful as fasting levels. There may be instances where your doctor recommends having the sample taken when fasting, so follow their advice.

  • What type of diet is best for healthy 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. This is true, but carbohydrate also has a very important effect on triglycerides. Diets high in carbohydrates, especially sugar, lead to increases in triglycerides as do diets rich in fats.

  • 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?

    While there are products available to monitor triglycerides at home, there is currently no clinical indication for which this is recommended.