When you’re younger, cholesterol doesn’t seem to be something you should be concerned with yet. There seems to be a misconception that cholesterol screening is only something older adults should worry about. But the truth is, knowing your cholesterol levels is essential even when you think you’re still in your prime.
What Is Cholesterol?
Before we get into the discussion of cholesterol screening, we must first understand cholesterol and its role in our bodies. Cholesterol is a substance found in the blood that has a waxy or fat-like texture. While cholesterol is often referred to in a negative manner, it actually plays an important role in one’s health. In particular, cholesterol is needed to produce tissues, cell walls, hormones, bile acid, and even vitamin D.
The issue of cholesterol is when it becomes too high. When you have high cholesterol levels, your risk of heart diseases increases. This is because high cholesterol levels can lead to the development of fatty deposits in one’s blood vessels. And when these deposits accumulate, your blood will have a harder time flowing through the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart and brain.
Why Is Cholesterol Screening Important?
Since the accumulation of fatty deposits from high cholesterol happens in the blood vessels, it’s not exactly something you can identify externally. In fact, high cholesterol does not typically come with symptoms or signs. And that’s why you would need a cholesterol screening test.
A complete cholesterol test or lipid panel is a type of blood test that essentially measures the amount of cholesterol you have in your blood. The results of the cholesterol screening tests can help determine your risk of heart diseases from high cholesterol.
Aside from measuring your total cholesterol, the lipid panel blood test also calculates your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or good cholesterol, and triglycerides. In general, your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. Meanwhile, your bad cholesterol should be less than 100 mg/dL, and your good cholesterol should be greater than 60 mg/dL. Lastly, optimal triglycerides levels should be less than 150 mg/dL.
When Should You Start Checking Your Cholesterol?
While high cholesterol levels become a greater concern as you grow older, that doesn’t mean you can’t start checking your cholesterol levels while you’re still young and healthy. In fact, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommends testing your cholesterol levels starting at the age of 20. And if you are a healthy adult without a history of heart disease, you should get checked every 4-6 years.
However, if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medications or have heart disease, doctors would recommend you get your cholesterol levels tested more frequently. Children with a high risk of heart disease can also get their cholesterol levels checked sooner. And when checking your cholesterol, it’s best to go to your doctor instead of ordering a home test kit from a drug store, as the latter can have too much variability.
Despite the common misconception, cholesterol levels aren’t just the concern of older adults. To prevent the long-term effects of high cholesterol on your heart, it’s best to get tested as early as 20 years of age. And healthy adults should still get tested every 4-6 years to ensure everything is alright with their cholesterol levels.
Get your cholesterol levels tested at Agile Urgent Care. We are a full-service, walk-in, medical facility that offers non-emergency, adult urgent care diagnosis and treatment even when you feel like you can’t pinpoint what’s wrong. At Agile Urgent Care, we aim to give you more options for quality urgent care. Get in touch with us now!