Do You Need Your Cholesterol Levels Checked?

July 5, 2013

Probably not. But if you’re one of the 1 in 6 Americans with high blood cholesterol, the current recommendation states you should get it checked—which requires a visit to the doctor to order the test, having blood drawn, then visiting the doctor again to hear the results—every 4 to 6 months.

A new study suggests this isn’t necessary—patients using medications like statins to regulate their cholesterol levels generally had a steady rate of lower cholesterol, and the extra tests were redundant. Advocates for the current guidelines contend that more research is needed, but I would moderate that to: more research is needed to see just how redundant (maybe testing once a year, or every other year if the patient reports they take all their medication, follow a healthy diet and exercise?).

Of course, it’s pertinent to mention that other studies have found that there isn’t such a strong correlation between cholesterol levels and heart health. Based on all the latest data, it would seem that cholesterol levels are more a symptoms of poor heart health than a cause, so all those tests and medications are about treating a symptom (which means masking it, and perhaps masking accurate heart health). There is a small group of people for whom cholesterol levels are relevant, however, but identifying them would require widespread genetic testing, which has it’s own set of issues.

Add it to the list of recommended screenings that are probably unnecessary or too frequent. You should discuss monitoring your health with your doctor, and pick a screening schedule that more accurately reflects your family history, personal history, and current lifestyle and treatments. You can probably save yourself time, money, and worry!

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