Everyone older than age 20 should get their cholesterol levels measured at least once every five years. High cholesterol does not cause symptoms; so many people are unaware that their cholesterol levels are too high. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens the risk of developing heart disease and reduces the chance of a heart attack or dying of heart disease, even if you already have it.
To assess your cholesterol level, your doctor will usually ask for a simple blood test called a lipoprotein profile. The lipoprotein profile evaluates the following:
- LDL (low density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "bad" cholesterol)
- HDL (high density lipoprotein cholesterol, also called "good" cholesterol)
- Total cholesterol level
In addition to the blood test, your doctor will perform a full physical exam, discussing your medical history, checking your heart rate, listening to your heartbeat, and taking your blood pressure.
If your cholesterol is found to be high, especially if you have other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor will recommend various treatment options ranging from dietary and lifestyle changes to medication to lower your cholesterol.
Further tests may be recommended if your doctor feels you are at risk for heart disease. To learn more about heart disease tests, visit WebMD's Heart Disease Guide.