Triglycerides test is a blood test to determine the amount of triglycerides, a form of fat, in the blood.
The triglycerides test is one of the screening tests for excess lipids (fats) in the blood. It is usually part of an evaluation of risk factors for heart disease.
Triglycerides are a form of fat that comes from foods. They can also be made and stored in the body and are used as an energy source. High levels of triglycerides in the blood can mean that there is too much fat in the diet. Hypertriglyceridemia (high levels of triglycerides) is associated with coronary heart disease, especially since elevated triglycerides levels are often associated with unhealthy low levels of hyper-density lipoproteins (the "good" cholesterol), which are necessary for good health.
For triglycerides testing, blood is drawn from a vein in the arm. A vein at the inside of the elbow or on the back of the hand is usually selected. The area where the needle will be inserted is cleaned with antiseptic. A small needle is inserted through the skin and into the vein, allowing a small amount of blood to flow into a collection tube or syringe. Once the blood is collected, the needle is removed from the puncture site.
Before the blood test, the patient may be required to refrain from eating food from eight to—12 hours. Patients should not drink alcohol for 24 hours before the test. Some drugs may affect the test and the patient may be asked to cease taking certain medications before the test. Oral contraceptives, estrogen, and cholestyramine (a drug used to treat high cholesterol) can increase triglyceride levels. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), asparaginase (an enzyme), and various drugs used to treat high blood lipids, can decrease blood triglyceride levels. These substances should not be taken prior to this test.
After the blood sample has been taken and the needle withdrawn from the puncture site, a cotton ball or gauze pad may be placed over the site and direct pressure applied to reduce bleeding. A piece of surgical tape or gauze adhesive bandage strip may be secured over the site to prevent further bleeding.
There is a very small risk that the puncture site may bleed excessively, a bruise or infection may develop at the site, or it may take several punctures to locate a vein. Some patients may feel faint or light-headed when blood is drawn.
The normal range of triglycerides in the blood depends on the age and gender of the patient. Women naturally have higher levels of triglycerides than men. Pregnancy can also increase triglyceride levels. As people age and gain weight, triglyceride levels generally increase. For adults, a normal level is considered to be less than 200 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter). Levels from 200-400 mg/dL are considered borderline high.
Triglyceride levels ranging from 400-1000 mg/dL are considered high and levels greater than 1000 mg/ dL are considered very high. High levels of triglycerides may indicate liver disease (cirrhosis), an underactive thyroid problem, uncontrolled diabetes, an infection of the pancreas (pancreatitis), kidney disease, or a diet too low in protein and too high in carbohydrates.
Extremely low triglycerides levels (less than 10 mg/dL) can also indicate a problem. Low levels may indicate malnutrition (not enough nutrients in the diet), malabsorption (inadequate absorption of nutrients in the intestinal tract), a diet too low in fat, or an overactive thyroid problem.
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