Cholesterol can be tricky to understand because it is not all is bad for you, some is actually good for you, U.S. heart experts say.
The American Heart Association endorses the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines for detection of high cholesterol. The guidelines call for all adults age 20 or older to have a fasting lipoprotein profile, which measures total cholesterol -- low-density lipoprotein, the "bad," cholesterol; high-density lipoprotein, or the "good," cholesterol; and triglycerides -- once every five years.
The test is done after a 9- to 12-hour fast without food, liquids or pills.
The test report shows cholesterol levels in milligrams per deciliter of blood -- mg/dL.
"To determine how your cholesterol levels affect your risk of heart disease, your doctor will also take into account other risk factors such as age, family history, smoking and high blood pressure," the American Heart Association said on its website.
Test results of fewer than 200 mg/dL is a desirable level that puts people at lower risk for coronary heart disease. A cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL or higher raises heart risk. Levels of 200 to 239 mg/dL is borderline high and 240 mg/dL and above is high blood cholesterol -- those with this level have more than twice the risk of coronary heart disease as someone whose cholesterol is below 200 mg/dL.