The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.

The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends screening for lipid disorders at least once every five years starting at age 20. More frequent or earlier testing may be recommended if you have:

  • A family history of elevated lipid levels
  • Other risk factors or conditions known to increase lipid levels
  • A complication that could have resulted from elevated lipid levels

Screening is recommended for children ages 9-11 years old and children 17-21 years old. For children of other ages, screening is only suggested if they have an increased risk factors such as:

  • Have family history of heart disease or stroke in family members < 55 years old in males or < 65 years old in females
  • Have parents with total cholesterol ≥ 240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) or lipid disorder
  • Have diabetes, hypertension, overweight, or obesity
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Have moderate- or high-risk medical condition

Screening is not recommended in children under two years old.

Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test. A blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. You may need to fast for several hours before your blood is taken. The test measures levels of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Mike Woods, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013 -
  • Update Date: 00/10/2014 -
  • Hypercholesterolemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2014.

  • Hypertriglyceridemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 20, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2014.

  • NHLBI integrated guidelines for pediatric cardiovascular risk reduction. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 12, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2014.

  • Prevention and treatment of high cholesterol. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Prevention-and-Treatment-of-High-Cholesterol%5FUCM%5F001215%5FArticle.jsp. Updated May 1, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2014.