Home Cholesterol Test – Can you monitor your levels at home?

5 Facts about Home Cholesterol Tests

  1. Purpose: A home cholesterol test checks for unhealthy fats in your body. It typically determines the levels of good and bad cholesterol by measuring four major biomarkers that affect your susceptibility to cardiovascular and heart diseases, diabetes, etc. 
  2. How it Works: You can get an at-home cholesterol test by ordering online. You can prepare the sample at home, ship it to a lab, and receive your results in 70-24 days.
  3. Cost: Home cholesterol test kits usually range between $33 – $69
  4. Results: The results of typical home cholesterol tests come with a range of at least four biomarkers. The number of a particular marker simply signifies the level of that marker concentration in your blood
  5. Recommended products: Nebula Genomics Home Cholesterol Test [COMING SOON]

What is a Home Cholesterol Test?

A home cholesterol test is a DIY medical screening that claims to be as accurate as traditional lab screenings. It measures your cholesterol levels and compares them to the accepted range. The process of determining your total cholesterol level includes testing various biomarkers which together help determine if you are at a higher risk of contracting heart disease, stroke or other severe conditions that are associated with abnormal cholesterol levels.

Home cholesterol tests can tell if there is too much fat in your arteries
High cholesterol causes narrowing of arteries. Wikipedia. CC-Attribution 3.0 Unported.

A complete cholesterol test is known as a lipid panel or lipid profile. With a complete test, you will be able to measure the amount of “good” and “bad” cholesterol in your blood and also know your triglycerides level, a type of fat, in your blood.

If any of your numbers are outside the healthy range, you are considered to have high cholesterol.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

Unfortunately the signs and symptoms of high cholesterol are normally noticeable until a major event, such as a heart attack or stroke, occurs. A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is stopped while a stroke is the result of insufficient blood supply to the brain. Both of these conditions are medical emergencies that need immediate treatment. 

High cholesterol results in the buildup of fat in arteries, which increases the likelihood of experiencing one or both of these events.

Who is at risk of high cholesterol?

If you fall under any of these risk factor categories, you may be at risk of having an abnormal cholesterol level:

  • Having a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Drinking alcohol frequently
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Leading an inactive lifestyle
  • Having diabetes, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, or underactive thyroid gland
Cholesterol and heart disease risk
High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Flickr.

The biomarkers of cholesterol include measured total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

Total cholesterol

A home test will generally measure cholesterol as its biomarker and give you a general view of your total amount of blood cholesterol. An ideal concentration will be less than 200 mg/dL.

Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL)

This is the most important biomarker to pay attention to as it is the cause of abnormal cholesterol symptoms and can put your health at serious risk. It is generally referred to as bad cholesterol and can lead to heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.The ideal level is between 70 to 130 mg/dL.

High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL)

This is commonly referred to as good cholesterol because it helps decrease the LDL concentrations in your blood. Its increase is generally a good thing, with an ideal range between 40 to 80 mg/dL.

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are excess calories converted by the body and stored in the fat cells. Diabetics and people who eat a lot of sugary food may have a high triglyceride level, which exposes them to cardiovascular risks. The ideal range for a healthy individual is typically from 10 to 150 mg/dL.

How Much Does a Home Cholesterol Test Cost?

While all home cholesterol tests serve a similar purpose, prices vary among test kit companies and higher test costs do not guarantee a more accurate test. In most cases, the accuracy is similar to traditional lab testing and price differences are based on how thorough the test is. 

Before ordering a kit, you would want to consider the factors of price and accuracy. A cheap test kit with poor results can result in serious consequences that may lead you to consider treatment for a non-existent disorder. You will always want to see a health care provider to positively diagnose high cholesterol and start treatment. Alternatively, an inaccurate test could also lead you to a false negative and cause you to fail to get treatment for a potential problem.

An EverlyWell home cholesterol test
An EverlyWell home cholesterol test

However, an accurate kit that is expensive may not seem like an excellent option as it defeats the purpose of actually having a cheaper nontraditional test from your home.

This section reviews the prices of some of the top test companies that have an excellent track record of selling accurate test kits.

Everlywell: The EverlyWell at-home cholesterol test costs $49 and measures four biomarkers (total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides). As with all EverlyWell test kits, customers with a membership plan can get it for $24.99, which saves them a total of 49% of the initial cost.

Grassrootshealth: The Grassroots health home cholesterol tests kit costs $33 and also tests the four common cholesterol biomarkers.  

Imaware: Imaware home kits company pitches its home cholesterol test kit at $60. While this may seem a bit on the high side compared to the other two, it is essential to note that this kit gives results on more than cholesterol. It also includes measurements on general heart health and inflammation. In total, it measures 7 biomarkers.

You may also be interested in home cholesterol tests that function similarly to blood glucose meters. Like blood glucose meters, they usually come with various test strips for each biomarker tested. To test, you acquire a drop of blood on the test strip and insert it into the meter to be read. The biggest difference between these tests and other home cholesterol tests is that these give you your results within minutes, usually on the instrument screen. Additionally, many of these tests are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Some companies that sell these meters include CardioChek and Curo.

You can read more about them in our home heart health test article!

Getting Started with a Home Cholesterol Test

Getting started with a home cholesterol test is one of the major determinants of a successful and accurate test. The steps are generally easy to perform. First, a home test will give you as many accurate results as a traditional lab test. You only just have to make sure that you ordered the kit from a reputable company and follow the instructions provided. 

Most home cholesterol test kits come with essentially the same materials. Some of the test materials to expect from a lab test kit include:

  • A DIY instruction material
  • An activation card
  • A medical grade collection card (Also known as test cards)
  • Envelope for returning both cards
  • Lancets (to prick your finger)
  • Wool
  • Gauze pad
  • Band aid
  • Alcohol swab

Most test kit companies require that you register your kit online to receive a code that allows you access and view your results on their platforms. The code also lets you track your cards and whether they have been received. 

It is recommended that you do not eat or drink (except water) 8–12 hours before performing the test. You should take the test in the morning while ensuring that the time of the last meal, the previous day, is no less than 8 hours. Some kits are not fasting cholesterol tests so it’s important to follow the instructions.

It is advised that you drink a lot of water during those 8 hours, if possible.

Performing a Home Cholesterol Test

Generally, there is only a single way of performing a cholesterol home test and that is through the finger prick blood test method. All popular test kit companies require that one of the two thumbs should be pierced. The process of the test is as follows:

  1. Wash and prep the right thumb.
  2. Use the lancet to prick and apply pressure so the blood sample clots at the opening.
  3. Place either a single (or several) drop(s) of blood on the collection card.
  4. Place the card on their package and mail it to the company designated address.
imaware home cholesterol test results and recommendations
imaware provides test results and recommendations

It may take 7 to 24 days to get your test result processed after it has been received at the lab. How the results are presented depends on the company from which you ordered the kit. 

The test will determine blood concentration of four biomarkers: total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and triglycerides. Each biomarker will have a number that represents their concentration on your bloodstream. The generally recommended results are:

  • LDL: 70 to 130 mg/dL (the lower, the better)
  • HDL: more than 40 to 80 mg/dL (the higher, the better)
  • Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL (the lower, the better)
  • Triglycerides: 10 to 150 mg/dL
A sample report of an EverlyWell home cholesterol test
A sample report of an EverlyWell cholesterol test

Home cholesterol tests will normally divide their range into three categories for easy comparison: low, normal, and elevated. In the Everlywell test, the value, as well as where that value falls on the larger range, is shown.

If your values are outside of the expected range, it is best to consult with a health care provider. They will most likely confirm the test results and be able to set up a treatment plan which may include lifestyle changes and/or medications.

Nebula Genomics

[Coming Soon]

Starting in Summer 2021, you will be able to take a home cholesterol test with Nebula Genomics and integrate your results with your whole genome sequencing data. Using data from both your biomarkers and your genes, you will be able to discover more insights about your personalized cholesterol test. Get your entire genome sequenced today!

More information on cholesterol and cholesterol tests can be found at the website of the American Heart Association.

You may also be interested in these other wellness tests you can take from home: