Screening for Heart AttackEn Español (Spanish Version)
The purpose of screening is early diagnosis and treatment. Screening tests are usually administered to people without current symptoms, but who may be at high risk for certain diseases or conditions.
You may be screened to find out if you have risk factors for
coronary artery disease
before you begin to have any symptoms. Screening involves assessing your medical history and lifestyle habits that may increase or decrease your risk of having a heart attack.
Blood pressure check
—A blood pressure reading measures the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heart is pumping (the upper number) and when your heart is resting between beats (the lower number). For example, normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Consistent blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher are considered
high blood pressure
. A blood pressure test is quick and painless. A blood pressure cuff will be placed around your arm. Air will be pumped into the cuff to tighten it around your arm and then released while a healthcare professional listens with a stethoscope.
—Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test. A blood sample will be taken from a vein in your arm. Cholesterol tests involve measuring total cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides.
The chart below lists healthy and unhealthy ranges for each type of cholesterol.
Total CholesterolDesirableLess than 200 mg/dL* (5.2 mmol/L)Borderline high200-239 mg/dL (5.2-6.1 mmol/L)High240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) and aboveLow Density Lipoprotein (LDL)OptimalLess than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L)Near or above optimal100-129 mg/dL (2.6-3.3 mmol/L)Borderline high130-159 mg/dL (3.4-4.0 mmol/L)High160-189 mg/dL (4.1-4.8 mmol/L)Very high190 mg/dL (4.9 mmol/L) and aboveHigh Density Lipoprotein (HDL)Protective effect against heart disease60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) and aboveHealthy range, but higher is better40-59 mg/dL (1.0-1.5 mmol/L)Major risk factor for heart diseaseLess than 40 mg/dL (1.0 mmol/L)TriglyceridesNormalLess that 150 mg/dL (1.7 mmol/L)Borderline high150-199 mg/dL (1.7-2.2 mmol/L)High200-499 mg/dL (2.3-5.6 mmol/L)Very high500 mg/dL (5.7 mmol/L) and above
Note: These categories apply to adults aged 20 and older.
*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter of blood (mmol/L= millimoles per liter of blood)
The National Guidelines Clearinghouse recommends adults up to age 64 receive blood pressure and cholesterol tests at least every three to five years. Adults over age 65 should have the screenings every one to two years.
American Heart Association website. Available at:
Accessed August 14, 2008.
National Guidelines Clearinghouse
website. Available at:
National Cholesterol Education Program. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website.
January 23, 2007.
Last Reviewed September 2012