Doctors use different guidelines to decide when a person should have a cholesterol test.
A cholesterol test can be one of the things doctors use to check on your risk of heart attack and stroke. Some health organizations recommend cholesterol screening every 4 to 6 years for everyone ages 20 to 39 and more often for people ages 40 to 75. 1
Other organizations recommend cholesterol tests based on age and risk factors for heart disease. For example, a test might be recommended for all teens and young adults ages 17 to 21 years. Or a test might be recommended for any adult who has strong risk factors for heart disease.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends cholesterol tests for people ages 40 to 75.2
How often to be screened
How often you should get a cholesterol test depends on your cholesterol level, your other health problems, and your overall chance of heart disease. An adult who is being treated for high cholesterol may need more frequent tests, depending on the cholesterol level and the type of treatment being used.
Cholesterol tests for children and teens
Your child's doctor may suggest a cholesterol test based on your child's age or family history or a physical exam. You can ask your child's doctor if your child should have a cholesterol test. There are different recommendations that doctors may follow. 3, 4, 5
- Arnett DK, et al. (2019). 2019 ACC/AHA guideline on the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Circulation, published online March 17, 2019: CIR0000000000000678. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000678. Accessed March 26, 2019. [Erratum in Circulation, 140(11): e649–e650. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000725. Accessed September 10, 2019.]
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2016). Statin use for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA, 316(19): 1997–2007. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2016.15450. Accessed April 25, 2017.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2016). Screening for lipid disorders in children and adolescents. JAMA, 316(6): 625–633. DOI: 10.1001/jama.2016.9852. Accessed August 9, 2016.
- Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.
- Grundy SM, et al. (2018). 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA guideline on the management of blood cholesterol: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association task force on clinical practice guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online November 8, 2018: S0735. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2018.11.003. Accessed January 28, 2019.
Current as of: September 7, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine