WebMD explores the use of cholesterol home test kits and discusses their reliability. Read on to learn whether using a cholesterol home test kit might be right for you.
What Is a Cholesterol Home Test Kit?
The cholesterol home test kit is a convenient and effective way to test your cholesterol level. It allows you to monitor your cholesterol without having to go to a doctor's office. And, rather than waiting days or weeks for cholesterol test results, the cholesterol test kit can give you results in a matter of minutes.
How Is a Cholesterol Home Test Kit Used?
You can purchase a cholesterol home test kit at your local pharmacy or medical supply store. They are usually priced under $20. The standard cholesterol home test kit contains a lancet for drawing blood and test strips.
To use a cholesterol home test kit, you first prick your finger with the lancet. Next, you place the blood droplet on the test strip. The cholesterol home test strip has special chemicals that change colors after a few minutes. You then match the final color against a color guide that's included with the kit. This color will tell you how much cholesterol is in your droplet of blood.
Some new cholesterol home test kits have an electronic meter. This meter functions in a similar way as a diabetes blood glucose meter. The test strips are inserted into the electronic device and a small computer measures the amount of cholesterol automatically. The electronically metered cholesterol home test kit costs more than the paper test strip method. The electronic meter kit, however, is helpful if you want to check your cholesterol level more frequently.
What Do the Results From a Cholesterol Home Test Kit Mean?
Your cholesterol level is one part of an equation that your doctor uses to determine your risk of a heart attack and stroke in the next 10 years. Other parts include your race, gender, age, HDL (good) cholesterol level, and blood pressure. In addition, the equation factors in your use of blood pressure medications, whether or not you have diabetes, and if you smoke.
Once you know your risk, you and your doctor can work to lower your likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. In addition to healthy lifestyle and dietary changes, you may need a medication known as a statin to reduce the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol that’s in your blood by 20 to 60 percent.
The cholesterol kit test results are only an estimate of your cholesterol level. While the test is often as accurate as the test your health care provider uses, this home test should not be a substitute for your health care provider's assessment.
Are Results From a Cholesterol Home Test Kit Reliable?
The reliability of cholesterol home tests varies, and the results can fluctuate. It depends on the maker of the kits. Many cholesterol home test kits advertise that they are greater than 95% accurate. Still, these cholesterol results should be considered approximations and should not take the place of a cholesterol test conducted by your health care provider.
In addition, even if you consistently get normal results from your cholesterol home kit test strips, it's very important to consult with your health care provider. To determine your risk of heart disease, your health care provider will evaluate your cholesterol level along with other factors such as your weight, physical exam results, medical history, and family history. Your health care provider may conduct other tests aside from the cholesterol screening.
Are Cholesterol Home Test Kits Regulated by the FDA?
The FDA does regulate certain cholesterol home test kits. There are home test kits for HDL cholesterol and triglycerides, too. However, not all cholesterol home test kits you can buy meet the FDA's stringent guidelines.
If you are unsure about which cholesterol home test kit to purchase, the FDA has set up the Over-The-Counter Database. You can find it on the FDA's web site. This database is an excellent resource to search for FDA-cleared cholesterol home test kits. You can also use it to find other types of home test kits.