The latest Canadian Cholesterol Guidelines recommend cholesterol testing for:

  • men 40 years of age and older
  • women 50 years of age and older
  • postmenopausal women (of any age)
  • people with diabetes
  • people who are overweight or obese (BMI of 27 or higher)
  • smokers
  • people who have high blood pressure
  • people with a strong family history of family members (such as parents or siblings) who have had heart disease at an early age (younger than 60 years)
  • people with physical signs of high cholesterol, such as yellow lesions under the skin or a grey ring around the cornea (the transparent layer that covers the eye)
  • people with atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries)
  • men with symptoms of erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting or maintaining an erection)
  • people with chronic kidney disease
  • people with HIV infection who are receiving treatment with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)
  • people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, or psoriasis
  • children with a family history of high cholesterol levels

For people in the groups above, cholesterol tests should be done every 1 to 3 years or more frequently for those with abnormal values or if treatment is started. Even if you're not in one of these groups, your doctor may decide to test your cholesterol levels if he or she feels it is needed.

Your doctor will recommend a cholesterol testing schedule depending on your age, your general health, and whether you are taking medications to lower your cholesterol.

Your doctor will usually monitor your cholesterol after you start a new medication or change the dose. After you reach the right dose, tests will take place every 6 to 12 months.

Cholesterol testing can help you and your doctor estimate your risk of developing heart disease, set expectations for treatment, and evaluate the success of your treatment. Ask your doctor if you should have your cholesterol tested and, if so, what your target cholesterol levels should be.