Should I be tested for high cholesterol?

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends that adults older than age 20 should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years. You may need to be tested more often if any of the following other risk factors for heart disease applies to you.

  • You are a man age 45 or older. You are a woman age 55 or older or who has passed menopause.
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease or high cholesterol before age 65, or your father or brother had one of those conditions before age 55.
  • You have several risk factors for heart disease, other than high cholesterol. These factors include:
    • smoking
    • diabetes
    • high blood pressure
  • Your cholesterol levels were high in a previous test.
  • You are taking medicine or using other methods to try to control your cholesterol.
  • You've been told that your HDL - the good cholesterol - is less than 40 mg/dL, which is low.
Children who are at high risk may need to be tested on a regular basis, too. Children at high risk include those who have a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol. Ask your healthcare provider how often you and your family members need a cholesterol test.

If your test results show that you have high cholesterol, your health depends on your following up with your healthcare provider. You can help control your cholesterol levels by making the following changes to your lifestlye.

  • Choose healthy, low-fat foods.
  • Exercise more.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Stop smoking if you smoke.
  • Take medicine if your doctor prescribes it.
Your actions may reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke.

To learn more about the blood cholesterol test, see What Cholesterol Tests Might I Need? and What Do My Cholesterol Test Results Mean?