People should have their cholesterol level checked from their mid-20s, according to researchers.
They say it is possible to use the reading to calculate the lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke.
The study, in The Lancet, is the most comprehensive yet to look at the long-term health risks of having too much “bad” cholesterol for decades.
Dr Helen Flaherty, Head of Health Promotion at Heart Research UK said: “When it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease, knowing your numbers is so important. A simple check can allow you to tell if your cholesterol levels are as they should be.
“Simple lifestyle changes can help to reduce your bad cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease, so the earlier that people can start to take steps, the better.
“This study shows that early intervention could play a vital role in helping to reduce someone’s risk of heart disease.”