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Is a Home Cholesterol Test Kit Worth Buying?

Tim Boyer's picture
Home Cholesterol Test Kit

On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Oz discusses with viewers the importance of knowing what your LDL cholesterol number is and shows viewers a simple way to test their number and how to lower it. But is this good advice? And does his test tell you whether you have the small particle or large particle LDL as reported in an earlier Dr. Oz episode?

“You can lower your cholesterol by a third. And the only number you really need to know to do it is LDL cholesterol,” says Dr. Oz as he introduces his “Cholesterol Extraordinaire” special guest Cedric the Entertainer who hosts the popular TV show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”

In spite of his superstar celebrity status, Cedric the Entertainer is just like many non-celebrities in America who suffer from high cholesterol and obesity. He acknowledges that both high cholesterol and obesity are endemic in his family and in the Back community and as a result he is doing his best to lose weight and take control of his health.

When Dr. Oz asked him if he knew his LDL number, he admitted that he did not, but knows that it’s no laughing matter.

“LDL is no LOL,” says Cedric as Dr. Oz points out that having too much LDL can lead to heart disease and stroke if left untreated.

“The reason why I care so much about LDL cholesterol is because that is what gets into your arteries and causes a lot of damage,” says Dr. Oz as he demonstrates an anatomy specimen of an aorta without cholesterol plaque formation and an aorta that is clogged with plaque. The differences are striking as Cedric attests to stating that while the aorta without cholesterol plaque looks and feels like a smooth rubber band-like tube, the plaque clogged aorta is much different:

“This feels very gristly, I got high gristle content,” says Cedric.

“The more LDL cholesterol we have, the more of this plaque we build up and the stickier the cholesterol is that gets stuck in there,” says Dr. Oz as he points out that the first step toward preventing having a gristly aorta is to find out whether your LDL cholesterol number is too high.

On stage, Dr. Oz provides Cedric with his “Quick Prick Test” using a portable in-home-use cholesterol meter that looks and works a lot like a small glucose meter used by diabetics.

Dr. Oz tells viewers that the following LDL numbers are the ones you need to remember to know how your health is doing when it comes to your cholesterol concerns:

• LDL of 0-100: Good
• LDL of 101-160: Fair
• LDL of 161-380: Poor

When comparing numbers, Dr. Oz came out at 102 and Cedric came out at 126.

However, Dr. Oz points out that while his and Cedric’s numbers put them both in the “Fair” rather than the “Good” range that this is still okay as long as they do not have other health risk factors. And better yet, that their cholesterol can be lowered enough to put them both in the “Good” range without resorting to prescription medications.

”You can change your LDL cholesterol with things you put in your body—the foods you eat,” says Dr. Oz.

Examples of foods that can help lower your cholesterol recommended by Dr. Oz include bananas, kale, salmon, grapes, avocadoes, dark chocolate and olive oil. Furthermore, Dr. Oz states that just by losing some weight you can move from the “Fair” to “Good” LDL cholesterol range.

“You lose just 10 pounds and you will drop your cholesterol by ten percent or more,” says Dr. Oz.

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While Dr. Oz’s cholesterol advice is a repeat of what he has previously advised viewers, this is the first time he’s shown viewers that taking a cholesterol test at home rather than at a clinic or lab can provide you with your LDL cholesterol number.

But is investing in a home cholesterol test kit or meter the right choice for you? According to Consumer Reports the answer is no.

Go to your local pharmacy and you can now find a number of at-home kits that can be used for testing and determining things like when a woman is ovulating or pregnant, whether a man is the father of child, or if someone is taking drugs.

In an analysis of at-home medical test kits that are more commonly bought by consumers, Consumer Reports finds that while medical test kits or meters that measure blood pressure and glucose levels are a good and wise investment in your health, that buying into a cholesterol test kit or monitor is unnecessary.

According to a statement on their website, Consumer Reports states:

“Don't bother with home cholesterol tests. Our analysis found that they were rarely worthwhile because cholesterol levels don't change much from day to day, and because some tests measure only total cholesterol, not the breakdown of LDL, HDL, and triglycerides. Getting your cholesterol checked by your doctor is a better bet because the test is likely to be simpler, neater, and less painful than those designed for home use—and more likely to be covered by insurance.”

Cholesterol test kits and monitors vary widely in price and quality, costing anywhere from approximately $40 go $2,000. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that they can differentiate between small and large particle size LDL. But if you still feel compelled to test your cholesterol (or anything else) at home, Consumer Reports offers 5 recommendations to consider before purchasing:

Before You Buy Advice

1. Will this test save you a trip to the doctor's office? If not, self-testing won't save you time or money.

2. Do you know the next step? Don't take a test if you don't know what you'll do with the results.

3. Is it FDA-approved? Approval suggests that a test is plausible, fairly accurate, and relatively easy to use.

4. What does your doctor think? Your doctor may have good reasons for discouraging you from doing home testing. And if you're reluctant to bring up certain issues with your doctor, it's time to look for a new one, not start testing at home.

5. Will it be covered by insurance? Many aren't, but those ordered by your doctor usually are—so it might be cheaper to have your doctor do the test.

For an informative article about cholesterol, click-on the titled link, “The One Test You Must Ask Your Doctor For.”

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket


The Dr. Oz Show

Consumer Reports: Test yourself at home