A Quick Guide To At Home Cholesterol Tests

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Why do you have to measure cholesterol levels?

Cholesterol is a molecule in your body that is important for maintaining the outer layer of your cells. If your cholesterol levels get too high, you can begin to suffer serious side effects. High cholesterol levels increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

This happens when the cholesterol in your blood begins to clog your arteries, causing them to narrow. This is known as atherosclerosis.

When your arteries narrow, it is harder for your heart and other organs to get the sufficient blood and oxygen they need to keep functioning properly, leading to heart disease, heart attacks, and other potential organ failures. 

Ensuring your cholesterol levels do not exceed the recommended level for your age and gender is important for ensuring you can live the healthiest life possible.

What is a cholesterol home test kit?

Many home cholesterol test kits and sampling are available online, all with varying quality.

A home cholesterol test kit is a laboratory-based kit whereby you collect a couple of drops of blood with a lancet and mail it back to the laboratory.

The second type of home cholesterol kit is where the results are rendered at home. There are typically three types of these tests—direct reading, where a drop of blood is placed on a cartridge and read with a scale; meter-based test, where an instrument similar to a blood glucometer is used; or color comparison, where a drop of blood is placed on a  test pad and color compared.

How do home test kits work?

Home cholesterol test kits measure the total fat levels in your blood. 

Depending on the type of test you have chosen, they can either measure total cholesterol levels in the blood or separate the measurement and measure low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglycerides, the “bad” parts of cholesterol, separate from high-density lipoproteins, the heart-protecting, “good” cholesterol. 

Once you are 20 years old, your cholesterol levels must be tested every four to six years to ensure it remains within a healthy range.

When using cholesterol tests, you will be required to prick your finger with a lancet, put a drop of blood on a piece of paper with chemicals, and then wait for the results. 

Some tests will let you know your cholesterol level based on the color the paper turns, and others will show you your results on a small screen. These are typically more expensive but are more accurate than the color-changing kits.

If you are using a home sample test, you will collect the amount of blood required by the test and send it to a laboratory for analysis, which can typically be done through the mail.

Are they better than lab tests?

At-home cholesterol tests¹ are typically not better than lab tests. Some of the more expensive ones are similar to the ones your doctor may use, but they should only be used as a guideline. Many brands of at-home cholesterol tests will discuss their tests being better.

Without expert guidance on how to properly do one of these tests, the results can sometimes be skewed. One issue with at-home tests is overloading the test with too much blood, which can throw off results. 

When using these tests, it is important to remember they are a guide. They are not as complex as tests you may get in a lab, which can give you a larger picture of your cardiovascular health.

How to understand the results

The results you will get depend on what kind of test you have.

The paper strip test kits will change color based on the amount of cholesterol in your blood. When taking the test, make sure you read the instructions, as they will explain what the different colors mean. These tests will only give you a range that your cholesterol falls into, not the exact amount.

If you use a solid-state monitor, you will see a number appear on the screen, telling you the cholesterol levels, both total and HDL, normally in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).

Your age, gender, and other health conditions may influence what is and isn’t a healthy cholesterol level. Typically, any total cholesterol reading over 200 mg/dL is considered high, and you should see a medical professional if you receive a number around this or higher.

Are they reliable?

Home cholesterol test accuracy depends on the brand and how precisely you follow the directions. Using a solid-state monitor can sometimes be as accurate as the one your doctor will use. The most accurate test kits are certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention² (CDC) Cholesterol Reference Method Laboratory Network. 

The results of at-home cholesterol tests are normally at least 80–90% sensitive and specific, which is close to the accuracy of a laboratory-run test and accurate enough for you to be confident that the results are reliable.

FDA regulations: are at-home kits approved?

The FDA approved the first at-home cholesterol tests in 1993, and there are currently a variety of tests approved by the FDA. 

They state that it is important that you are always using new test strips that are authorized for sale in the United States. Ensure you are not using previously-owned test strips or ones not authorized for sale.

If you want to know if a home cholesterol test kit is covered by the FDA, you can use the In Vitro Test Database (IVD) on the FDA website. 

This will allow you to search the database of over-the-counter tests approved by the FDA and be given a list of all approved tests. The test is not regulated if there is no record of the test you are looking to use. There are currently 47 different tests approved by the FDA for at-home cholesterol testing.

Four of the best at-home cholesterol test kits

Some of the market's best-selling at-home cholesterol test kits are listed below.

Curo L5 Digital Meter

This cholesterol testing kit is $99 and comes with everything you need to test your cholesterol at home. It is quick, accurate, and budget-friendly if you are after a good mid-range test kit. It has ten testing strips, so you will need to buy more separately. You are also able to monitor your blood sugar levels with this device.

EverlyWell Cholesterol and Lipids Test Kit

This sample collection kit comes with everything you need to collect samples to send away to be measured for total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides. The kit includes what you need to ship it as well. When you’ve sent it away, the results should be sent to you within the week and uploaded directly to an app, so you can view them from your phone. 

Board-certified physicians review all results to ensure they are as accurate as possible. It is also great if you are on a budget, as it retails for approximately $49.

CardioChek Analyzer Cholesterol Kit

The CardioChek Analyzer Kit is an easy-to-use, multipurpose home test kit. You get your results quickly, and the device will store the 30 most recent test results, allowing you to view changes easily. 

It has a higher price point at $270, but it can read total cholesterol, triglycerides, and HDL separately. You can also buy alternate test strips that can be used to test blood sugar.

Accutrend Plus

Accutrend Plus is a hand-held device that measures total cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, and lactate, within three minutes. It involves applying a drop of blood to a test strip, making it safe and easy to use.

The recording meter can store up to 100 different measurements for each parameter, allowing you to track changes in your cholesterol and blood sugar levels over time. Of note, several studies³ have demonstrated Accutrend Plus as one of the most accurate devices.

When you should see a doctor

If you have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or high cholesterol in your family, you should make a point of having your cholesterol checked more regularly by a medical professional.

You should see a doctor if you use home test kits and receive readings above 200 mg/dL. They can perform further tests and more easily interpret results to determine whether you require treatment and the best methods for it. 

Many factors can cause high cholesterol, including diet, exercise, and underlying health conditions, which cannot be determined from an at-home test.

You must keep on top of your cholesterol levels, especially as you age. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.

The lowdown

At-home cholesterol test kits are a way to determine your cholesterol levels without making a trip to the doctor. They are useful for giving you an idea of your cholesterol levels and are fairly accurate, but they should not replace regular checkups with your doctor. 

Home cholesterol test kits come in various styles but are generally easy to use. It is important to ensure the FDA approves the kit you are considering using to ensure it is regulated and accurate. 

If you have any concerns or questions about your results, you should bring this up with your doctor, as they will be able to interpret results, run further tests, and consider other lifestyle factors to determine if you need treatment and the best kind may be.

  1. Cholesterol testing at home: It may be faster, but is it better? | Harvard Health Publishing

  2. CRMLN: Cholesterol reference method laboratory network | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  3. Performance of commercially-available cholesterol self-tests (2021)

Other sources:

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