You do not usually experience symptoms when your cholesterol levels are unhealthy, so the only way to know if your blood cholesterol levels are normal is to have regular blood tests. The Heart & Stroke Foundation says that the Canadian guidelines recommend having your cholesterol tested if you:
- are male and over 40 years of age;
- are female and over 50 years of age and/or postmenopausal;
- have heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure;
- have a waist measurement greater than 102cm (40 in.) for men or 88cm (35 in.) for women;
- smoke or have smoked within the last year;
- have erectile dysfunction; or
- have a family history of heart disease or stroke.
Since there isn’t a universally “ideal” level for any type of cholesterol, your doctor will consider the various measures obtained in your cholesterol test, as well as your risk factors, medical history and present health when interpreting the results.
If your cholesterol levels are considered unhealthy, your doctor will provide treatment advice that might include lifestyle changes such as: reducing your intake of saturated and trans fats, engaging in regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy body weight, refraining from smoking and limiting alcohol consumption. In some cases, when lifestyle changes prove to be insufficient to keep your cholesterol levels in check, your doctor might prescribe medication.