Home Cholesterol Test Kits Review – How Accurate Are They?
Home cholesterol test kits are becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are finding out that they have high cholesterol levels and hence a greater risk of developing heart disease later in life. But, are these kits accurate? And, what type of picture do they provide about cholesterol and overall health?
The Mayo Clinic warns that home cholesterol test kits may seem like a good idea, but that they are not a suitable substitute for the care of a physician. Cholesterol test kits are available at drug stores and pharmacies and often contain test strips, a lancet used to draw blood and a meter or measuring device. WebMD explains that they are often used by people in between appointments with health care providers and are convenient because they provide an instant response, as opposed to the delays that can come from waiting on results from a cholesterol blood test performed by a doctor. Using a test kit for cholesterol is very simple. A lancet is used to prick the finger and the forthcoming blood is placed on a strip. The strip is chemically treated so that it will change color when the blood is placed on it. This color change indicates cholesterol levels and the test strip is then compared to a control. The color the strip has turned when compared to the control sheet indicates the comparative levels. Home cholesterol test kits are in fact simple to use, but are they accurate?
Accuracy seems to depend on who you ask. The Mayo Clinic explains that how accurate these home tests are may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, while WebMD notes that most tests are nearly as accurate as those from a health care provider. Certainly if these two healthcare monoliths cannot agree on the accuracy of home cholesterol test kits, it is impossible to gauge how truly accurate they actually are. Likely the correct answer is somewhere in between, with better products being more accurate and less expensive or off brand options perhaps providing more of an estimate of total cholesterol.
But, there is another problem to monitoring cholesterol numbers at home. The Mayo Clinic explains that often these tests provide readings for total cholesterol, which is not an accurate means of evaluating blood fat levels. Since LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) is one of the most important numbers to understand in order to assess the risk of heart related illnesses, tests that do not provide this information are not as useful as those that do.
Further, since the relationship between HDL cholesterol and the ratio of it to total and bad cholesterol is also important, tests that do not include this number are also remarkably not useful. The reason why blood tests performed by a health care provider measure HDL cholesterol is because it is an important part of an overall lipid profile and can provide insight into whether or not an increased risk of heart disease is present. In addition to good and bad cholesterol, lipid panels done by a health care provider also provide information about triglyceride levels. The relationship between triglycerides and cholesterol is also important, and knowing a how high your triglycerides numbers are can indicate the need for dietary and lifestyle changes.
But, while the accuracy of home cholesterol test kits may be debated, their use is generally accepted. Because people with high cholesterol often require regular doctor’s appointments and monitoring, home kits can provide a snapshot of total cholesterol in between visits. This can be incredibly beneficial for those who are making lifestyle changes like increasing exercise, quitting smoking and changing their diet. Home cholesterol test kits can show in real time how much of an impact these changes are making without waiting until the next visit to the doctor’s office. WebMD explains that the total cholesterol estimates provided by home test kits can be a good way to monitor levels in between trips to the doctor.
Home cholesterol test kits are not a substitute for medical monitoring and advice. They provide a generalized estimate that may or may not be entirely accurate or reflect your cholesterol numbers when compared to laboratory testing. However, for those that are taking the steps to control their cholesterol and are interested to see the positive effects that those changes are having on their blood fat levels, home kits can provide a suitable guide. They may also be useful for those that are high risk and can indicate a need to schedule a doctor’s appointment, or see if a particular medication is providing any results between visits. When used as simply a monitoring tool, the accuracy of test kits is less relevant and less important. What is important is the proactive approach being taken by the user to get and keep their cholesterol under control and use the kits as a way to visualize progress along the way.