High cholesterolGetting tested

High cholesterol does not cause symptoms. You can only find out if you have it from a blood test.

Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high.

This may because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).

Ask your GP surgery for a cholesterol test if:

  • you have not had a test before and you're over 40, overweight, or high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family

You're more likely to have high cholesterol.

Having a cholesterol test

There are 2 ways of having a cholesterol test.

Taking blood from your arm

Some blood will usually be taken from your arm with a needle.

This is sent to a lab to check your cholesterol level. You should get the result in a few days.

You might be asked not to eat anything for up to 12 hours before the test. But this is not always needed.

Finger-prick test

If you're over 40, you may have a test during your NHS Health Check.

This is a check-up that can help spot early signs of problems like heart disease and diabetes.

The test can be done by pricking your finger. A drop of blood is put on a strip of paper. This is put into a machine that checks your cholesterol in a few minutes.

What happens next

If you have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it.

This might include things like changing your diet or taking medicine.

They may also work out your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years.

They can do this using your:

  • cholesterol levels
  • blood pressure
  • height and weight
  • age, sex and ethnicity

Lowering your cholesterol can help lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Page last reviewed: 15/04/2019
Next review due: 15/04/2022