The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.
—Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test. A blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. You may need to fast for several hours before your blood is taken. The test measures levels of:
- Total cholesterol
- LDL (bad) cholesterol
- HDL (good) cholesterol
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends screening for lipid disorders at least once every five years starting at age 20. More frequent or earlier testing may be recommended if you have a family history of elevated lipid levels or other risk factors or conditions known to increase lipid levels, or if your doctor finds a complication that could have resulted from elevated lipid levels.
Screening is not recommended in children under two years old. Screening is recommended for children ages 9-11 years old and children 17-21 years old. For children of other ages, screening is only suggested if they have an increased risk. This may include any of the following:
- Have family history of heart disease or stroke in family members < 55 years old in males or < 65 years old in females
- Have parents with total cholesterol ≥ 240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) or lipid disorder
- Have diabetes, hypertension, overweight, or obesity
- Smoke cigarettes
- Have moderate- or high-risk medical condition
Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated September 9, 2012. Accessed September 12, 2012.
NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated February 28, 2012. Accessed September 14, 2012.
Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at:
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-High-Cholesterol_UCM_001215_Article.jsp. Published August 2012. Accessed September 12, 2012.
What is cholesterol?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
website. Available at:
http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbc/. Accessed September 12, 2012.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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