Should you get your cholesterol checked?

Checking your cholesterol levels is vital to maintaining good health. The risk of heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the United States, is increased by high cholesterol.

Knowing your cholesterol status can help you maintain health control. Examine cholesterol screening and its significance with My London Pharmacy expert advice.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance required for hormone production and fat digestion. Your body produces all the cholesterol it needs, but you can also obtain cholesterol from egg yolks and fatty meats, among other foods. High blood cholesterol can cause the build-up of plaque in the arteries, putting you at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. High blood cholesterol has no symptoms, which is why it is so important to have your cholesterol levels checked.

At least every five years, you should have your cholesterol checked. If you have cardiovascular risk factors, discuss more frequent testing with your health care team.


At what age should I undergo a cholesterol screening?

Approximately one in five adolescents has an unhealthy cholesterol level1, and nearly 93 million U.S. adults aged 20 and older have high cholesterol.
2 But because high cholesterol has no symptoms, many individuals are unaware of their elevated levels.

Checking cholesterol levels should begin early in life; children and adolescents should also have their cholesterol levels checked.

Tests for cholesterol should be conducted.

If your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if your child has obesity or diabetes, your doctor may advise more frequent cholesterol screenings.


What are the risk factors for hypercholesterolemia?

Lifestyle, certain health conditions, and family history can increase the likelihood of developing high cholesterol. If you have any of the following risk factors, your doctor may advise you to get your cholesterol checked more frequently:

  • A family history of cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol levels. You are more likely to develop high cholesterol if other members of your family also have it. This may be due to genetics, but it may also be a result of unhealthy lifestyle habits shared by family members. Some individuals also have a genetic condition known as familial hypercholesterolemia, which can result in high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad,” cholesterol beginning in childhood.
  • Type 2 diabetes increases “bad” cholesterol and decreases “good” cholesterol, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Older age.
    As you age, your body becomes less efficient at removing cholesterol.
  • Being male.
    Men have higher LDL cholesterol levels and lower HDL cholesterol levels than women. However, after menopause (around age 55), LDL cholesterol levels rise in women. 
  • To be overweight or obese.
    High cholesterol can be caused by excessive weight, unhealthy eating habits, and lack of physical activity.
  • Having had high cholesterol in the past.
    If you have a history of high cholesterol, your doctor may advise you to monitor it more closely.

Your doctor may instruct you not to consume anything other than water for 9 to 12 hours prior to the test.


What should I know prior to being screened?

Cholesterol testing is a straightforward blood test. Your doctor may instruct you not to consume anything other than water for 9 to 12 hours prior to the test. The outcomes provide four measurements: 1,3

  • Absolute cholesterol. Below 200 mg/dL is considered to be normal.
  • LDL cholesterol. Below 100 mg/dL is considered to be normal. LDL cholesterol is sometimes referred to as “bad” cholesterol because it can accumulate and clog arteries, ultimately leading to heart disease or stroke.
  • HDL cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol. The optimal level is greater than 40 mg/dL. HDL is sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol because it helps prevent cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
  • This is a type of blood lipid. Typically, normal levels fall below 150 mg/dL.

How can I maintain healthy cholesterol levels in my blood?

Discuss your numbers with your doctor. In addition to high cholesterol, the risk of disease depends on a number of other factors. To keep your cholesterol levels in check, you should:

  • Choose nutritious foods. Reduce your consumption of foods high in saturated or trans fats, sugar, and sodium (salt). Choose foods that are high in fibre and unsaturated fats, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, avocados, and nuts. iconExternal Learn more about healthy eating.
  • Maintain physical activity.
    Each week, you should complete a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as bicycling or brisk walking.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking harms the blood vessels and significantly raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. If you do not smoke, do not begin.
  • If necessary, take medicine.
    A healthy diet and physical activity can help many people achieve healthy cholesterol levels, but certain individuals may require cholesterol-lowering medication. Always take your medication exactly as directed.

Typically, high cholesterol has no symptoms.

The only way to determine if you have high cholesterol is to undergo a cholesterol test. Your health care team can measure your cholesterol levels with a simple blood test called a “lipid profile.”

What Occurs Throughout a Cholesterol Test?

The cholesterol screening or test requires a simple blood draw. You may be required to fast for 8 to 12 hours prior to your cholesterol test. Ask your physician how to prepare for the test.



enters for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. About Multiple Cause of Death, 1999–2019. CDC WONDER Online Database website. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2019. Accessed February 1, 2021.

Reviewed by Doctor Colin Galloway on 17/06/2022

Dr. Galloway has over 15 years of experience as a Cardiology and General Medicine consultant. He is a graduate of University College London.

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