What do your cholesterol numbers mean?
Your cholesterol levels can help your doctor find out your risk for having a heart attack or stroke. But it's not just about your cholesterol. Your doctor uses your cholesterol levels plus other things to calculate your risk. These include:
- Your blood pressure.
- Whether or not you have diabetes.
- Your age, sex, and race.
- Whether or not you smoke.
To learn about the test, see the topic Cholesterol and Triglyceride Tests.
For more information about risk, see the topic Heart Attack and Stroke Risk Screening.
Other tests and risk factors
Your doctor may order other tests or talk to you about other risk factors for heart attack and stroke. This helps you and your doctor decide what treatment to lower risk is right for you. You might talk about:
- Your family history of early heart disease. Early heart disease means you have a male family member who was diagnosed before age 55 or a female family member who was diagnosed before age 65.
- An LDL test result of 160 mg/dL or higher.
- Results of tests such as C-reactive protein, coronary calcium scan, or ankle-brachial index.
- Your lifetime risk of heart attack and stroke.
When to have a cholesterol test
Most doctors recommend that everyone older than 20 be checked for high cholesterol. How often you need to be checked depends on whether you have other health problems and your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Your child's doctor may suggest a cholesterol test based on your child's age, family history, or a physical exam. A cholesterol test can help a doctor find out early if your child has a cholesterol level that could affect his or her health.
For more information, see: