Many people are aware that high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, it’s important to try to reduce your risk. Keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels is one way to monitor your health and determine whether you need to take action to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Many people are wondering how to test cholesterol at home. Are there any home cholesterol meters? What type of cholesterol levels test kits are available?
How is cholesterol tested?
Although total cholesterol can be tested by itself, this is not a very useful measurement on its own. Instead, a set of tests called a lipid panel is usually done. A lipid panel typically consists of:
- Total cholesterol
When you receive the results of your lipid panel, you may also see a report of certain ratios. These are not separate tests, but calculations based on the above four tests. Either the total cholesterol to HDL ratio, or the LDL to HDL ratio, are commonly reported. For either of these ratios, a lower number is better. You may also see a report of the HDL% of total cholesterol, which just means how much of your total cholesterol is made up of HDL. For this, a higher number is better.
If you’re wondering how to check triglycerides at home, they’re almost always included in a lipid panel, but you should check to make sure.
What do different cholesterol tests mean?
Cholesterol is carried in the blood on various different proteins. The two main ones are called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL carries cholesterol from the body to the liver, so that excess cholesterol can be cleared out of the body. By contrast, LDL carries cholesterol into the bloodstream towards the body’s tissues.
When too much cholesterol is present in your bloodstream, then it can start to deposit in the walls of your arteries. This makes the arteries narrower and stiffer, which increases the risk of a major health problem like a heart attack or stroke. Because LDL carries cholesterol into the bloodstream, if the levels of this type are high, it leads to a higher risk of cholesterol depositing into the walls of the arteries. This is why LDL is sometimes called “bad cholesterol.” By contrast, HDL helps your body clear out excess cholesterol, and is sometimes called “good cholesterol.”
High levels of HDL are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, while high levels of LDL are associated with a higher risk. You want high HDL and low LDL.
Triglycerides are a type of fat that’s found in your bloodstream. The body uses them to store excess calories. High levels of triglycerides indicate an increased risk for heart disease. This is because triglycerides themselves can deposit in the walls of arteries, and also because high triglyceride levels are an indicator of other heart disease risk factors, like being overweight.
Sometimes, C-reactive protein (CRP) is also measured. This is a marker for inflammation. When CRP levels are higher, then you have a higher level of chronic inflammation, and a higher risk for heart disease. Although it’s not included in a standard lipid panel, C-reactive protein is also a useful test in determining your heart disease risk.
Can I check cholesterol at home?
If you prefer to check your cholesterol on your own, you can order a cholesterol home test kit. You will take your blood sample yourself at home, using a fingerprick. For a lipid panel, you need to be fasting, so most people choose to take the sample early in the morning. This testing is an at home cholesterol monitor, allowing you to keep track of your cholesterol levels yourself.
If your self cholesterol testing results show abnormal results, then it’s important to speak with a physician to determine what this means for you and what you should do about it. For most people, the first step is to make some healthy lifestyle changes, including exercising and eating a healthy diet. If you’ve tried this and your numbers are still abnormal, then prescription medications might be recommended for you. You’ll need to discuss this issue with a medical professional.
Comparing At-Home Cholesterol Test Kits
There are many different options for ordering an at home cholesterol kit. The services that we normally recommend are LetsGetChecked, MyLabBox, PrioritySTD, and Health Testing Centers. PrioritySTD only offers STD testing, but the other three services do offer home cholesterol monitoring kits. Here’s a breakdown of the options.
LetsGetChecked. https://www.letsgetchecked.com/. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
myLAB Box. https://www.mylabbox.com/. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
PrioritySTD. https://www.prioritystdtesting.com/. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
Health Testing Centers. https://www.healthtestingcenters.com/. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
Cholesterol ratio or non-HDL cholesterol: Which is most important? Mayo Clinic. https://mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/expert-answers/cholesterol-ratio/faq-20058006. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
High Cholesterol. Mayo Clinic. https://mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350806. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.
Cholesterol: Understanding HDL vs. LDL. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/understanding-cholesterol-hdl-vs-ldl-2018041213608. Accessed 11 Oct 2022.