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Talk to your doctor about when a cholesterol test is right for you.
Doctors use different guidelines to decide when a person should have a cholesterol test. Your doctor might suggest a test based on your age or your risk factors for heart disease.
Some health organizations recommend that everyone ages 20 to 79 be checked every 4 to 6 years for the risk of heart attack and stroke. This would include a cholesterol test.1
Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease. For example, a test might be recommended for all teens and young adults ages 17 to 21 years. Or a test might be recommended for any adult who has strong risk factors for heart disease.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends cholesterol tests for:2
How often you should get a cholesterol test
depends on your cholesterol level, your other health problems, and your overall chance of
An adult who is being
treated for high cholesterol may need more frequent tests, depending on his or
her cholesterol level and the type of treatment being used.
An adult who has coronary artery disease should have a
cholesterol test at least once a year.
adults who have
diabetes should be tested at least once a
Your child's doctor may suggest a cholesterol test for your child or teen based on your child's age, family history, or a physical exam.4
For more information, see Cholesterol in Children and Teens.
Public cholesterol testing can be convenient and helpful. But most doctors will want to
verify public test results. Because the doctor can evaluate risk factors and
provide counseling, having your cholesterol level checked during a doctor visit
is the preferred method.
The reliability of public cholesterol tests at health fairs, malls,
drugstores, and other sites depends on many factors, including:
You may wish to ask the technicians how much training they have had
and how your blood sample will be handled.
For more information, see:
Goff DC Jr, et al. (2013). 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the assessment of cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online November 12, 2013. DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437741.48606.98. Accessed November 22, 2013.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2008). Screening for lipid disorders in adults. Available online: http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspschol.htm.
American Diabetes Association (2014). Standards of medical care in diabetes—2014. Diabetes Care, 37(Suppl 1): S14–S80. DOI: 10.2337/dc14-S014. Accessed January 7, 2014.
Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.
Other Works Consulted
Stone NJ, et al. (2013). 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation, published online November 12, 2013. DOI: 10.1161/01.cir.0000437738.63853.7a. Accessed November 18, 2013.
Current as of:
March 12, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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