Cholesterol home test kits
Are home cholesterol testing kits a useful and accurate way to check cholesterol levels between appointments with your doctor? Are they reliable? Get the facts here.
What is a cholesterol home test kit?
Having a cholesterol test kit at home can be a convenient way to test your cholesterol levels.
Unlike blood tests at the doctor's surgery that are sent off to a laboratory to be tested, the home kit gives results within minutes.
How is a cholesterol home test kit used?
Cholesterol home test kits are available from pharmacies and usually contain lancets and test strips.
A finger is pricked with a lancet and a small drop of blood is put on a test strip.
The strip changes colour after a few minutes to indicate cholesterol levels which need to be checked against a colour chart in the kit.
This tells you the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Other home test kits have an electronic meter, which gives a reading of cholesterol levels from a test strip, instead of a chart.
What does the cholesterol home test result mean?
Having high cholesterol doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, but it is a sign that your chances of developing heart disease are higher.
The NHS recommends a target cholesterol level of 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults and 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk of heart disease.
If the home test kit suggests high cholesterol levels, see your GP. They will probably confirm the results by arranging a professional blood test with the sample being sent to a laboratory.
Once high cholesterol is confirmed, doctors will usually recommend lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and taking more exercise. Cholesterol lowering medication, usually statins, may also be recommended.
Are results from a cholesterol home test kit reliable?
Home cholesterol test kits are not a substitute for professional tests though your GP - but some people find them useful for monitoring levels between appointments.
The reliability of cholesterol home tests can vary. This can be down to the quality of the kit, and could be affected by the instructions not being followed fully.
The charity Heart UK only recommends having cholesterol tested by a trained professional and does not endorse home cholesterol test kits.
The medicines and medical device regulator MHRA says home testing can play an important role in healthcare, but kits and readings shouldn't be relied upon on their own. It also points out testing on the NHS is free, whereas home test kits from shops and online have to be paid for.
It advises people to only buy self-test kits from trusted sources, or after seeking medical advice.
Do not buy a kit if it looks damaged or if seals are broken.
Look for a CE mark which means the kit meets the relevant regulatory requirements.
Even if home test kits suggest consistently normal results - make sure you still have regular check-ups with your GP. Heart disease risk isn't just about cholesterol - your weight, medical history, any family history of heart disease, and blood pressure can all play a role.