If your cholesterol levels don’t fall within normal ranges, you are at risk for strokes and cardiovascular disease. To stay healthy, lipid profile blood testing as prescribed by your healthcare provider is important. But, in between doctor visits, how do you know if you’re keeping your levels in check?
Home cholesterol test kits provide an easy way to test various forms of cholesterol and triglycerides. Many tests available on today’s market offer a high degree of accuracy, and some are even approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And while home cholesterol testing should never take the place of thorough lipid testing performed by your doctor, it’s a good tool for monitoring your numbers before your next visit.
Whether this is your first time shopping for a home cholesterol test kit or you are browsing different options to find the best one for your needs, you’ve come to the right place. We have selected the top kits available based on reliability and results and put together a handy shopping guide below to help you choose the right kit for your needs.
Cholesterol is a sterol that is a part of all cells in the body. It is produced naturally by the body and is found in certain types of foods. When you have a lipid panel done at your doctor’s office or a laboratory, the healthcare provider who ordered the test is looking for levels of different types of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, which are fatty acids in the body. Some high numbers indicate levels that can pose risks of future cardiovascular disease, while others are beneficial to your health. Home cholesterol test kits are useful for monitoring these numbers. Here is a closer look at the components that are checked with cholesterol testing:
LDL cholesterol: LDL is the abbreviation for low-density lipoprotein. High levels of LDL cholesterol are the main culprit that can lead to the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This is the reason it has earned the nickname “bad cholesterol.” Eating fried foods, too much animal fat, and processed snacks can contribute to LDL cholesterol. An optimal level of LDL cholesterol to shoot for is 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or lower.
HDL cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) has been dubbed “good cholesterol” for a reason — it tackles bad cholesterol and helps remove it from your system. Lean fish, fruits and vegetables, and grains help raise HDL levels, which many medical professionals say should be 60 mg/dl or higher.
Triglycerides: High fat levels in the blood can come from eating high-fat, high-sugar diets. When this happens, triglyceride levels go up and can contribute to heart disease. Aim to keep your triglyceride number at 150 mg/dl or lower.
Total cholesterol: This simply refers to an overall number that includes LDL and HDL cholesterol and should ideally be 200 mg/dl or less.
It’s important to remember that ideal numbers can vary due to individual reasons, such as health conditions, age, and other factors. That’s why it’s important to have a professional healthcare provider evaluate your cholesterol numbers and provide guidance before you test at home.
Types of home cholesterol test kits
Strip-only tests: This inexpensive home cholesterol test is the most basic and involves placing drops of blood on test strips. Color changes indicate cholesterol numbers. These easy-to-use kits typically include strips, a lancet, and blood collection droppers for several readings and give quick results. The primary drawback is that they have higher reports of inaccuracies than other kits, making them not ideal for consumers who need reliable readings, such as those with known high cholesterol.
Meter tests: Home cholesterol tests that require a meter work similarly to blood glucose tests and provide a fast reading with a decent level of accuracy. It’s also an affordable option — one meter is all that’s needed for repeated testing. You can choose a meter by itself or one that comes with lancets, strips, and blood collection droppers. However, there is a learning curve when you begin using a meter and inconsistent readings can occur. Some kits offer dual capabilities for also testing glucose levels (supplies are also sold separately).
Lab tests: This type of home cholesterol test kit involves mailing your blood samples to a lab, where they are read by trained lab technicians. Though you only get one test for your money, these are the most comprehensive and accurate of the bunch (some are FDA certified). On the other hand, you may have to wait several weeks for the results. Kits include lancets, blood collection device, and detailed instructions. Some kits also come with alcohol swabs, gauze, and bandages, and include pre-paid envelopes. Note that lab tests are not valid in some states that have regulations against this type of testing.