Triglycerides Blood Test Results Explained
A triglycerides blood test is used to measure the levels of triglycerides in the blood. It is commonly called a TG test or a TRIG test. Triglycerides are fats that are found in the bloodstream. They are related to cholesterol because both are lipids. However, while cholesterol is a waxy substance that does not get absorbed, triglycerides are fats and do. A triglycerides test is used to determine whether or not there are higher than normal levels of the three molecule fats in the blood, which can indicate an increased risk for heart disease, as high triglycerides are thought to be a very common cause of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Most of the time, a triglycerides blood test is not performed by itself. This is because other measurements need to be taken in order to fully evaluate the risk of heart related conditions. Typically, triglycerides levels are measured during a larger panel of blood work that is known as a lipid panel. This particular blood test measures not just triglycerides, but also the levels of both good and bad cholesterol in the blood. This test is better rounded, and provides an enhanced look at overall heart health and the potential for disease. Even in healthy individuals, a lipid panel is recommended every five years. However, there are some cases where it may be requested more often, such as when risk factors are present. Some risk factors that can necessitate the need for more frequent testing are smoking, obesity, high blood pressure or a family history. As explained in our article, “Elevated Triglycerides in Children – What Could Be a Reason?” there are specific risk factors for children that can necessitate testing at an earlier age than normal. This includes having either parent with high cholesterol or triglycerides or, a family history of heart disease that has occurred early in life (before the age of 55). A triglycerides blood test as part of a full lipid screening may be indicated in children starting at the age of two in these cases.
Having blood drawn to test levels of fats in the blood is no different from any other blood test. It is normally painless with little to no adverse reaction (although some discomfort may occur immediately following the draw). Results are normally discussed with a health care provider to better understand the outcome of the triglycerides blood test, particularly if levels are higher than desirable. The normal range for these blood fats is 150 mg / dL or less. And, results that come in below this amount indicate a normal and healthy amount of triglycerides in the blood. (Note: Normal triglycerides value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories. Talk to your doctor about the meaning of your specific test results). Anything from 151 mg / dL to 199 mg / dL indicates elevated triglycerides, and a health care provider will likely recommend dietary changes and increased exercise to reduce these numbers and prevent them from getting higher. Levels that are between 200 mg / dL to 499 mg / dL are considered high, and dietary changes and lifestyle changes are immediately required to bring triglycerides down from this level and reduce the risk of a cardiac event relating to them.
If the results of a triglycerides blood test are above 500 mg / dL this indicates a condition known as hypertriglyceridemia, and it can be serious depending on how much above 500 mg / dL the blood fats are. Medications like fibrates or statins may be necessary in cases of hypertriglyceridemia and dietetic changes like drastic reductions in sugars and alcohol are required. Depending on other factors, elevated levels like these can indicate underlying health problems like metabolic syndrome as well as drastically increasing the risk for heart diseases like atherosclerosis. If levels are incredibly high, insulin therapy may be indicated to provide a rapid reduction in triglyceride levels. Conversely but rarely, very low triglycerides may be present signaling about underlying health conditions.
If the results of a triglycerides blood test show that there are more of the fats in the blood than there should be, lifestyle and dietary changes are almost always required. This is especially true in children, where sedentary activities like video games combined with an available abundance of simple sugar laden foods are becoming increasingly more common and can be a recipe for disaster in children when other risk factors are present. The best advice for deciphering the results of blood test come from the doctor who ordered them who can take things like existing medications, health conditions, lifestyle and health and family history into consideration when devising a treatment plan that is perfectly tailored to normalizing triglycerides levels and therefore greatly reducing the risk for heart related illnesses.