Should I Use a Home Cholesterol Test?

Home cholesterol test
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Home cholesterol tests have been available in pharmacies since 1993. Most tests commercially available in the United States have been examined and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Testing your cholesterol at home offers a variety of benefits, including:

  • They are readily available. You do not need a prescription to purchase one of these kits. Additionally, you can find many home cholesterol tests in your local pharmacy, department store, and online at various retailers.
  • Cost is not a huge issue. Some home cholesterol test kits are relatively inexpensive to purchase.
  • They are very convenient. You can perform these tests at any time in the comfort of your own home. They can be accurate. Most manufacturers state that their tests are up to 95% accurate when used correctly.

Although there are some important advantages to using a home cholesterol test, there are some drawbacks, too. If you select to test your cholesterol at home, there are some important things to consider before purchasing a test kit, including:

  • The lipids tested. Many home cholesterol test kits only test for total cholesterol levels. Although this is a parameter that is commonly measured, you also need to measure LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels in order to get a complete picture of your lipid health. Having a high total cholesterol level may signify that you have a problem, but it does not give you a true insight into how bad the problem is. There are some cholesterol tests kits that test for not only total cholesterol levels, but also LDLHDL, and triglycerides. If you are looking for a more complete test result, you should select a home test kit that tests for all of these.
  • Fasting. Just like when you get your lipids tested in your doctor’s office, you still need to fast for at least 8 to 12 hours before getting your lipids checked at home, too. Depending on what is tested, not fasting may result in you getting a reading that is much higher than your levels really are.
  • Possible issues with the test. Some home cholesterol test kits are hard to use and it may be difficult to interpret the results. If not used correctly, you may not get an accurate result. Therefore, if you decide to use a cholesterol test kit, you should read the directions very carefully before starting the test.
  • The design of the test. Earlier tests – and some existing test kits – relied on some type of color change in interpreting the results. Cholesterol test kits have come a long way since the early 1990s, and some of them can give you an electronic readout – taking out the guesswork of interpreting your results. You should also select test kits that are approved by the FDA, since they have been tested for accuracy and use.
  • In the long run, cost may be issue.  Electronic testing kits and cholesterol test kits that test for LDL, HDL, and triglycerides may be more costly. Some test require that you send off your blood sample to have it analyzed – which may not only require money, but also weeks of waiting for your results. And, while lipid tests performed in a doctor’s office are covered under your health insurance, most insurances will not reimburse you for purchase of a home cholesterol test. Additionally, unlike other blood parameters such as glucose, cholesterol levels do not greatly fluctuate. Therefore, daily or monthly testing is not warranted.

    Whether or not you determine that you have high lipid levels from taking a home cholesterol test, you should still follow up with your healthcare provider and get your lipids checked. If your home cholesterol test determines that your lipid levels are high, you should definitely make an appointment with your healthcare provider for additional testing. Your healthcare provider will determine how high your different lipid levels truly are and will take the appropriate measures to help you improve your heart health.

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