Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
Over 93 million people over age 20 have high cholesterol levels in the United States. Even some adolescents can have high cholesterol, which is why some pediatricians start testing children as early as age 12 for high cholesterol with a lipid panel.
A lipid panel is a great way to test whether you are at risk for developing heart disease or a heart attack. Your health care provider will likely recommend a lipid panel about every five years or sooner if you are at a higher risk for heart disease.
In fact, if you are already at risk for heart disease and have elevated cholesterol levels, you should check your lipids far more often than every five years — you should check them every month to monitor your cholesterol-lowering strategies’ progress.
Going into the doctor’s office to get a lipid panel every month can become arduous, which is why many companies have developed at-home cholesterol test kits. These kits are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and give you relatively rapid — sometimes instant — results on your current cholesterol levels.
Today, Zizi discusses home cholesterol test kits — their benefits, how to use them, and how to understand their results during your heart health journey.
What Is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy lipid your liver naturally produces for normal bodily processes and functions. It is very important in cell membrane structure, cell signaling pathways and communication, and immune system response and healing.
There are several different types of cholesterol, including HDL and LDL cholesterol. Unfortunately, not all of these types of cholesterol are ‘good’:
- Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL): This is what most people think of when they think about cholesterol. LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol because when you have too much, it can build up in your vessels, depositing to form blockages that prevent blood flow and increase your risk for heart disease.
- High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL): HDL is the ‘good’ cholesterol. This type of cholesterol mitigates LDL, which means it can, fortunately, lessen the amount of LDL cholesterol that circulates in your bloodstream.
- Total Cholesterol (TC): Your total cholesterol test measures all the cholesterol in your blood, including LDL and HDL cholesterol.
How Often Should I Check My Levels?
We recommend that you check your blood cholesterol levels monthly if you are at risk for cardiovascular disease or have a family history. You can generally check less often if you are at an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, or familial hypercholesterolemia.
When no risk factors are present, healthcare professionals usually recommend that you test your levels every five years. However, this should occur much more often if you have elevated levels already–you should test every month.
What Is a Home Test Kit?
A home test kit is a kit that includes all the supplies you need to check your cholesterol levels from the comfort of your own home. You don’t have to go into a lab that day, and you don’t have to continue to return to the doctor’s office month after month for a simple blood draw that lasts less than five minutes total.
What Does a Home Test Kit Measure?
Different types of home test kits measure different aspects of your cholesterol, but in general, all home test kits will measure your total cholesterol levels. The test kits are called lipid panels — just like the lipid panel you would receive in a doctor’s office — and therefore assess the amount of fat and fatty substances in your bloodstream.
In addition to your total cholesterol, others measure your HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels, as well as your very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL). Here’s what these two new terms mean:
- Triglycerides (TG): Triglycerides are fats acquired through bodily synthesis or external consumption from foods.
- Very low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL): you will not find this type of cholesterol as often on a panel. VLDL is mainly composed of triglycerides, and the triglyceride level will often be noted.
Where Can I Get a Kit?
Home cholesterol test kits are relatively easy to find over-the-counter at your local pharmacy. You can also get a monthly supply of at-home test kits through Zizi’s Heart Health Reset Program.
What Are Home Test Kit Benefits?
Cholesterol home test kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. They provide convenience when it comes to your heart health because they save you a monthly commute to the doctor for bloodwork.
Home test kits are also nice because they can give you more rapid results — some kits yield results within minutes, and others within just one to two days. The kits are very accurate as well, and can even be as accurate as the tests your healthcare provider uses if you follow the directions carefully and correctly.
What Types of Home Test Kits Are There?
There are several different types of test kits, including:
Without a Meter
These kits come with test strips and a small needle or blade as well as a test strip color and color guide.
With a Meter
These kits come with a small needle or blade, as well as an electronic meter that reads your cholesterol level results.
This test kit comes with a small needle or blade, shipping supplies, and a test tube. You mail your blood sample to a laboratory and receive your results from that lab.
How Do I Use a Home Test Kit?
No matter what home test kit you use, it is quite easy to conduct the test yourself. First, you prick your finger with a small needle or blade. Next, you either place your blood droplet onto your test strip or into a test tube if you have a mail-in kit.
If you have a mail-in kit, you are done at this point. All you have to do is send back the test tube with your blood sample, and you will receive the results soon after. If you have a test kit without a meter, you should let your test strip settle for a few minutes so its chemicals can enact their color changes.
Once the strip changes colors, compare it against the control color guide that you have to determine your levels. Alternatively, if you have a metered kit, insert the test strip into the electronic meter to read your results that way.
Do I Need To Fast Before I Use My Test Kit?
Yes–while fasting can be a bit difficult, it is important that you fast for the most accurate results. Fasting ensures that you prevent unnecessary information from showing up in your blood panel results, such as sugars and fats that your body might not be done digesting if you ate in the hours leading up to your test.
In a lipid panel, the VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides are most influenced by recent food intake; your LDL cholesterol may also be influenced if it is a calculated measurement.
We recommend that you fast for 6 to 8 hours before taking your at-home test. This time period will ensure that no additional cholesterol is circulating from recently eaten foods by the time you take your test and thus will give you the most accurate results.
Some strategies you can employ to help you remain focused on fasting are:
- Drink plenty of water
- Read a book or watch a movie to stay distracted from wanting to eat
- Go to sleep early
I Just Got My Results Back, What Do I Do Now?
Once you receive your results, you should save them and keep a month-to-month record showing your provider at your next check-up. You should always discuss your results with your doctor so that you can find out your risk for heart attack or stroke and develop a strategy together for how to mitigate this risk.
In the meantime, you can use our guide to your cholesterol numbers to determine how much of a risk factor your levels pose towards your likelihood of a heart attack or heart disease.
Home Test Kits Are Easy With Zizi
With Zizi’s cholesterol-lowering program, we utilize mail-in test kits to give you an easy way to check your cholesterol levels from the comfort of your own home. All you have to do is send in a blood sample monthly — we’ll send you the results soon afterward on your phone.
Learn more about lowering your cholesterol in 30 days with Zizi’s Heart Health Reset program here, or your money back.
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