Ever wonder why regular checks of cholesterol are so important? Because high cholesterol is linked to high-risk diseases like heart disease and stroke. And it has zero symptoms.
Of the 95 million US adults with high cholesterol, only about half of them are taking the medication they need. Are you maintaining healthy cholesterol levels? Here's everything you need to know about how to check cholesterol at home.
Everything You Need to Know About How to Check Cholesterol at Home
High cholesterol raises the risk of getting heart disease - the leading cause of death in the US. It also increases the risk of stroke, the fifth leading cause of death in the US. The recommendation is to get a cholesterol check every 4 to 6 years.
Some people should have more regular checks. For instance, those with a family history of high cholesterol, who smoke or have high blood pressure. So what are the options when it comes to testing cholesterol? Let's take a look.
Have a Doctor Check Your Cholesterol
You can make an appointment with a doctor for a check. There's no need to make an appointment with a cardiologist. Unless you are high risk or a general practitioner has recommended it.
The test itself is fast, but you have to factor in the inconvenience of scheduling, and waiting for a doctor. Not to mention the cost. By sitting in a doctor's waiting room you're exposed to the coughs and sneezes of unwell people.
You'll need a second appointment to receive your results - even if it's an all-clear.
Check Your Cholesterol at Home
What your MD might not have told you, is you can test your cholesterol pretty reliably at home. Home cholesterol kits are effective, convenient ways to regularly check your cholesterol level. They save you a trip to the doctor's office and help you avoid the coughs and sneezes there.
They'll give you a result within minutes. Saving you a follow-up doctor's appointment and the weeks you'd wait between test and result. But how do they work?
How to Check Cholesterol at Home
You can buy a home test kit for cholesterol in most pharmacies or medical supply stores. Once you open it up, you'll find a lancet for drawing blood and the test strips.
Open and unpack the kit, clean your hands, then prick your finger with the lancet. It's a short sharp discomfort that will pass very quickly. You place a drop of blood on the test strip.
The chemicals in the test strip change colors within a few minutes. You'll match the color of the test strip against the color guide included. That'll tell you how much cholesterol is in your sample.
Advanced kits include an electronic meter. You'll pay more for these, but if you're in a high-risk category it's likely to be a good investment. The electronic meters work a bit like a diabetes glucose meter; you insert the test strip with your blood droplet into the device for a reading.
How Do I Measure My Risk Level?
The reading from your home cholesterol kit is just one piece of the puzzle in determining your level of health risk. Other factors include age, gender, race, your 'good' cholesterol level, your blood pressure and other lifestyle factors. These include your level of general activity, medications you take, whether you smoke, and whether you have other health issues.
What If I Am High-Risk?
If your doctor decides you're high-risk for heart attack or stroke, there are some important interventions that you can make. Lifestyle and dietary changes are top of the list. A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and good rest each night are all important.
That doesn't have to mean daily gym trips. Some of the best health interventions are small scale. Like walking to the next bus stop, taking the stairs, and less uninterrupted sitting time.
Your doctor may decide to prescribe statin medication to reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) aka 'bad' cholesterol. This can reduce (LDL) by 20 to 60%. These can come with their own risks and are still controversial.
Are There Risks to Home Tests?
Cholesterol kits vary greatly in their accuracy. A good test can be just as accurate as that of your health care provider. But it does not substitute for a doctor's assessment.
Especially if you're in a higher risk category. One compromise is to take every second test at home, as long as the result is good and you are not high risk. As we've mentioned, high cholesterol has no symptoms.
So only using a home kit, and not having a regular doctor examination, does come with some risks. Think of the home kit as a convenient approximation. Combine it with semi-regular health care provider checks.
Your doctor is taking your weight, physical exam, family history, and medical history into account. These are all important elements of a decision on your heart and cholesterol health. You should also invest in the best quality kit to reduce the risks.
Choosing a Good Home Test Kit
There are some home cholesterol kits regulated by the FDA. Our advice would be to shop for these, even if they carry a higher price tag. If you buy an inferior product and get unreliable results, it's not worth it.
You can check the FDA's over the counter database to help you select the right kit, then find it on our website. Tests that are 'traceable' to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are more likely to be accurate.
What Is a High Reading?
If your reading is higher than 200 mg/dL you should talk to your doctor. A high cholesterol reading may have to do with many factors, such as exercise, diet, or others. Your doctor will likely take a new test rather than rely on your home kit.
Home Cholesterol Kits: A Healthy Investment
A home cholesterol kit is a convenient way to stay on top of your cholesterol risk. It saves you unnecessary trips to the doctor and gives you a convenient, at-home peace of mind. And while you now know how to check cholesterol at home, it's important to keep in mind it doesn't do away with the doctor visit.
An active lifestyle, healthy diet, good rest and regular testing are all necessary ways to lower your chance of heart disease or stroke. If you're interested in knowing more ways to stay in peak health and choose the right health products, check out our blog and extensive product range today!