High Blood Cholesterol - Screening and Prevention - Screening and Prevention

Your doctor may order a blood test called a lipid panel to screen for unhealthy cholesterol levels. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle starting in childhood and continuing throughout your life can help prevent high blood cholesterol.

Lipid panel tests to screen for high blood cholesterol

A lipid panel usually measures total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and HDL cholesterol. Your test results may also show the level of non-HDL cholesterol, which includes all fats (including "bad" LDL cholesterol) that raise your risk of heart and blood vessels diseases. It may also include a test for triglycerides.

Ask your doctor if you need to fast before a lipid panel. This means you do not eat or drink anything except water for 9 to 12 hours before your visit. Ask your doctor about taking your medicines before the test.

How often you get a lipid panel done depends on your age, risk factors, and family history of high blood cholesterol or cardiovascular diseases, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack or stroke. Here is a general guide:

  • Age 19 or younger. Screening begins at ages 9 to 11 and should be repeated every 5 years. Screening may be performed as early as age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke.
  • Age 20 to 65. Younger adults should be screened every 5 years. Men ages 45 to 65 and women ages 55 to 65 should be screened every 1 to 2 years.
  • Older than 65. Older adults should be screened every year.

If your blood cholesterol levels are not within the healthy range for your age and sex, your doctor may order a repeat lipid profile test, especially if you were not fasting before your first lipid panel. Also, it is important to know that your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke is based on several other factors, not just your cholesterol levels. These factors include things like your age, race, and lifestyle habits.

Prevention strategies

Living a heart-healthy lifestyle may help prevent unhealthy levels of blood cholesterol. This includes:

  • Eating healthy
  • Being physically active
  • Aiming for a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Managing stress
  • Getting enough good quality sleep

Limiting how much alcohol you drink may also lower your risk of high blood cholesterol.