Cholesterol is a type of fat found in many foods that come from animals, such as meat and dairy products. Your liver also makes it. Your body needs some cholesterol, but too much can block your arteries.
That's why adults with high cholesterol are more likely to have heart attacks and stroke. Because high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease and stroke in adults, doctors advise adults to lower their cholesterol levels by eating a healthier diet and exercising more.
Your blood carries cholesterol in several different packages. These cholesterol packages are called total cholesterol, HDL, and LDL.
Cholesterol testing is done with a blood sample taken at the lab. This test doesn't require fasting (no eating), so you can do it anytime without worrying about not eating before you have the test.
Your doctor checks your cholesterol to help you understand how you can lower your risk of having a heart attack. But your cholesterol level is only part of the information your doctor needs. Other major risk factors for heart disease include:
Studies have shown that doctors do a better job of figuring out your risk of heart disease when they consider all of this information.
Recommendations for preventing heart disease depend mostly on a persons' overall risk of heart disease. People at high risk may need treatment that people at low risk don't need. Because your age and other risk factors are important in estimating overall risk, our recommendations for cholesterol testing take them into account.
Men and women under age 40: We don't recommend routine cholesterol testing unless you have a major risk factor for heart disease. Your cholesterol test results are unlikely to change the basic recommendations: Don't smoke, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
Men and women aged 40-75:We recommend cholesterol testing every 5 years for people without risk factors.
Men and women aged 75 and older: Kaiser Permanente doesn't recommend routine cholesterol testing for people over 75. If you have a condition that increases your risk for heart disease, talk to your doctor about whether continued screening is right for you.
These testing recommendations apply to most people, but you and your doctor might choose to do cholesterol testing based on your personal health history. Your doctor might suggest repeating your cholesterol test or getting other lab tests to follow up on the results of your cholesterol test.
Good lifestyle habits will help you stay healthy and lower your risk of heart disease. Follow these healthy tips:
For information on Kaiser Permanente programs, including support groups, brochures, and community resources, contact the Resource Line.
Coverage may vary by plan. To check your benefits, refer to your coverage agreement or contact Member Services.