How often should you check your cholesterol?

How often should you check your cholesterol?

Warnings about high cholesterol are all around, and for good reason.

High levels of bad cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, as the waxy substance can build up in your blood vessels and potentially cause blockages. For this reason, it’s important to know if your bad cholesterol levels are too high. But how often do you need to check?

“Maybe not as often as you might think,” says Dr. John Brill, vice president of population health sciences & research at Advocate Health Care. “This is a conversation you should have with your doctor. Your physician will decide, based on your individual risk factors, how often this is appropriate. For many people, once a year testing is unnecessary, and your insurance may not cover the test that frequently,” Dr. Brill says.

The American Heart Association has suggested that adults under 40 who are low risk only need to have their cholesterol tested every four to six years. As you get older or as you have additional risk factors, your doctor may want to do tests more frequently.

If you have never had your cholesterol checked before, doing so can give you an idea of where you stand and whether you need to make lifestyle changes to try to lower it.

Your doctor can help you understand what strategies are right for you, but typically you can lower your cholesterol by eating a healthier diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins such as lean poultry, seafood and nuts. Exercising regularly can help, too. In some cases, your doctor may choose to prescribe medication to help.

“Overall, it’s important for you to know your cholesterol numbers, and your doctor is best suited to know how often you need to get tested,” Dr. Brill says.

Want to learn more about your risk for heart disease? Take a free online quiz to learn more.

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About the Author

Mike Riopell
Mike Riopell

Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.