Discussions with Docs – Dr. Hana Hagos 

Cholesterol Education Month 

September is Cholesterol Education Month, but what exactly is cholesterol? It is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body and is made by the liver. It is also found in some foods such as meat and dairy. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly, but too much of it in your blood leaves you at a higher risk of coronary artery disease. 

A blood test called a lipoprotein panel can measure your cholesterol levels. Before the test, you’ll need to fast (not eat or drink anything but water) for 9 to 12 hours. The test gives information about your total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol), HDL (good) cholesterol, triglycerides, and Non-HDL. 

When and how often you should get a cholesterol test depends on your age, risk factors, and family history. General recommendations are as follows: 

  • 19 and younger –
    • First test should be between ages 9 and 11
    • Be tested again every 5 years 
    • Some children may have this test starting at age 2 if there is a family history of high blood cholesterol, heart attack, or stroke
  • 20 and older – 
    • Younger adults should be tested every 5 years 
    • Men ages 45 – 65 and women 55 – 65 should be tested every 1 to 2 years

What affects your cholesterol are as follows: 

  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Weight
  • Family History
  • Physical Activity 
  • Race

It is important to establish with a primary care physician who has your medical records and can work with you to implement preventive measures that will reduce your risk.