Can I Test My Own Cholesterol At Home
Its better to have your cholesterol tested by a professional because taking blood and measuring cholesterol levels is a skilled job and your results will be affected by the way you do the test. Going to a health professional means you will get an accurate reading.
We dont recommend home sampling, but if you do decide to test your cholesterol at home, follow these simple steps to take your sample safely and get a more accurate result.
Understanding Your Cholesterol Results
When you get your cholesterol result from your doctor, it’s split into a variety of different measurements.
- TC which stands for total cholesterol and should ideally be below 5 millimoles per litre of blood
- LDL , which should be less than 3mmols/l
- HDL . This should read more than 1mmol/l for men and 1.2 mmol/l for women
- A fasting triglyceride sample, which should be 2 mmols/l or less
- A non-fasting triglyceride result, which should be 4 mmols/l or less.
Total cholesterol of 5.8mmols/l is higher than recommended, but could be reduced with simple diet and lifestyle changes rather than medical treatment. Medical treatment would only be appropriate if the level was much higher.
How To Maintain Good Cholesterol Levels And Good Cholesterol Numbers
If you want to maintain good cholesterol levels, good for you!
The fact of the matter is that keeping your cholesterol levels in control is important, so you are doing the right thing by making the decision to keep your cholesterol levels in check.
Here are a few tips to help you get your cholesterol values balanced so you can pass the nest cholesterol blood test with flying colors:
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My Triglyceride Blood Levels Are High
Your cholesterol blood test will also measure the level of triglycerides, another type of blood fat . Triglycerides are a form of dietary fat found in meats, dairy produce and cooking oils.
Unlike cholesterol, it is not certain whether triglycerides contribute to the risk of cardiovascular disease or whether underlying conditions such as diabetes or obesity are the problem.
However, there is evidence to suggest that this is the case so it is generally recommended to to keep your blood levels low – especially if you are already at risk of cardiovascular disease.
There are many causes of high triglycerides, which include inheritable traits, having a high fat or high sugar diet, high intake of alcohol, obesity and diabetes.
Healthier lifestyle changes to consider include:
- Try to lower the saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol in your diet. Cutting back on carbohydrates should help too.
- Eating more oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, tuna and salmon which are high in omega-3s, a fat thats good for you. It may be hard to get enough omega-3s from food so you can also consider supplements.
- Increased exercise & weight loss. If youre carrying extra pounds, especially around your belly, losing 5% to 10% of your weight can lower triglycerides.
- Reduced alcohol consumption. Not only is alcohol high in sugar and calories, it can have a significant effect on your triglyceride levels.
Measure blood fats and assess your risk from heart disease.
I Just Learned I Have High Cholesterol Now What
You may feel upset to learn you have high cholesterol. But now that you know about it, you can take action to lower your numbers.
Follow your providers guidance on how to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Some general tips include:
- Add more exercise to your daily routine.
- Avoid smoking and all tobacco products.
- Keep a weight thats healthy for you.
- Learn how food impacts your cholesterol, and start with small changes to your diet.
- Learn new strategies for dealing with stress.
- Take your medications as prescribed.
Most of all, dont blame yourself. High cholesterol is a common condition that can be hard to control through lifestyle choices alone. And many factors beyond our control limit the choices we can make.
Be kind to yourself, and remember that your cholesterol numbers dont define you as a person. They simply give you a window into whats happening inside your body. Your provider will help you use that information to plan your treatment and keep your arteries healthy for a long time to come.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/28/2022.
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How Is A Cholesterol Test Booked
It shouldnt be too hard for anyone who wants to get their cholesterol tested to do so. Checks by qualified healthcare professionals are free and easily available on the NHS. To book yourself in, just call your local GP surgery and ask about their procedures for cholesterol testing. A few things to keep in mind:
- Many GPs will have nurse-led clinics which can do a comprehensive health check, and then offer support and advice depending on the results.
- Some pharmacies also provide this service ask in store for advice on booking yourself in.
- Some local health services can actively invite people to come in for cholesterol testing.
- If you are over 40, doctors will probably want to check your cholesterol every five years, while for those on cholesterol-lowering drugs or with a family history of high cholesterol, its likely to be more often.
Understanding cholesterol results: how is cholesterol measured?
There are two main types of cholesterol tests: one which takes a blood sample from a vein, and one which takes it from a capillary the smaller blood vessels found all over your body.
Blood sample from a vein. In this case, a healthcare professional will find a vein, usually in your arm or hand, and use a syringe to take a small vial of blood. This is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. While timelines vary, most practices will receive the cholesterol blood results in 48 hours and advise patients to ring up to get their results.
Do I Need To Call My Doctor For My Test Results
It usually takes a day or two from the time the blood is drawn until your health care professional receives the results of the cholesterol test. Ideally, the health care professional will contact you with those results and explain their significance. However, if you have not been contacted in a short period of time, it is reasonable to contact your health care professional and ask for the test results.
There are home cholesterol test kits available that have been U.S. FDA approved, but their accuracy is not necessarily as good as that of a certified laboratory. These tests usually measure total cholesterol only, but some also can measure HDL, LDL, and cholesterol. If you use one of the home kits, it is wise to discuss the results with your health-care professional.
The purpose of the cholesterol blood test is to determine whether treatment is needed for high cholesterol. That treatment may include dietary and lifestyle modifications, medications, or both to control cholesterol levels and decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
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Can You Lower Triglycerides Naturally Without Drugs
Triglycerides can be lowered without drugs. For example, they can be lowered naturally through diet changes, decreasing consumption of alcohol or sugary beverages, by increasing physical activity, by losing weight, and other ways. As little as 5% to 10% reduction in body weight may lower triglycerides.
Cholesterol tests are blood tests that measure the amount of cholesterol in the body. The health care professional may order only a cholesterol test with results showing:
In addition to cholesterol level, the health-care professional also may order a lipid profile test. The lipid profile test will also measure triglyceride levels and another fatty substance found in the blood.
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If Cholesterol Is Important For Health Why Is It Good And Bad
Lipoproteins have different concentrations of fat and transport cholesterol to different parts of the body. The lower the density of a lipoprotein, the more fat it contains. Therefore, LDL cholesterol is very rich in fat. LDL cholesterol delivers cholesterol to our cells and is associated with plaque build-up in our arteries which can lead to heart disease. HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, helps collects cholesterol from the blood stream and deliver it to the liver for excretion.
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Do You Need To Lower Your Cholesterol And Triglycerides
If you have high cholesterol, high triglycerides or an unhealthy balance of blood fats, your doctor will probably recommend bringing these levels down with lifestyle changes and sometimes treatments.
They should look at your results in relation to any other risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, being overweight, smoking, and other health conditions such as diabetes.
Why High Cholesterol Matters
High cholesterol puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death in the U.S. High levels of LDL cholesterol can contribute to plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries, narrowing the arteries and restricting blood flow. If some of this plaque breaks off and gets stuck in a narrowed artery, it can block the artery and cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in heart attack or stroke.
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Are Cholesterol Test Kits Reliable
The FDA does regulate some cholesterol tests, but not all. Reliability of kits can vary, and your results may not always be accurate. However, if you feel at-home cholesterol testing is preferable, ask your doctor to recommend a reliable kit. FDA approved home tests kits meet standards for accuracy.
Many test kits only provide total cholesterol levels, or information about HDL or triglycerides. Your LDL is not directly measured but can be calculated. You cant use cholesterol home tests to evaluate your overall heart risk yourself, as many risk factors such as age, weight, gender, family history, and lifestyle are used in this determination and should be performed by a doctor.
What Kind Of Test Measures Cholesterol
Your provider checks your cholesterol levels through a blood test called a lipid panel . Your provider will draw blood from a vein in your arm and send the blood to a lab for analysis. Be sure to closely follow your providers instructions on how to prepare for the test. Youll likely need to fast for 12 hours beforehand. This means avoiding all foods and drinks except water.
When your results come in, your provider will let you know. You may also be able to access your results through your electronic medical record.
Your lipid panel gives you the following numbers:
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My Hdl Cholesterol Is Low
HDL cholesterol carries cholesterol away from your artery walls, so higher levels are better. The higher your HDL cholesterol level, the lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Lack of exercise, smoking and high alcohol consumption can reduce your HDL cholesterol. It can also be temporarily lowered during sudden illness, or recovering from surgery or an accident.
If your Good Cholesterol is too low, then increasing it is recommended – the higher the better.
This can be achieved through losing weight, avoiding smoking, exercising more and maintaining a healthy diet. Low-carb and ketogenic diets have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol.
Research Shows Not All Ldl Cholesterol Is Alike
Nearly one in four people found to have LDL cholesterol in the desirable level through the traditional calculation method actually may have needed more aggressive treatment, according to a study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published in 2013 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The newer way of calculating LDL cholesterol, which the same researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association later that year, provides a more individual and accurate assessment of risks.
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Ldl Cholesterol: Bad Cholesterol
Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, often referred to as bad cholesterol, is the type that tends to deposit on the walls of the arteries. White blood cells combine with the LDL cholesterol, forming artery-narrowing plaque, which restricts blood flow. The optimal level of LDL cholesterol for most people is 100 mg/dL or lower. If you have heart disease, you may need to strive for LDL levels of 70 mg/dL or lower.
What Should My Cholesterol Levels Be
Blood cholesterol is measured in units called millimoles per litre of blood, often shortened to mmol/L.
As a general guide, total cholesterol levels should be:
- 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk
As a general guide, LDL levels should be:
- 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
- 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk
An ideal level of HDL is above 1mmol/L. A lower level of HDL can increase your risk of heart disease.
Your ratio of total cholesterol to HDL may also be calculated. This is your total cholesterol level divided by your HDL level. Generally, this ratio should be below four, as a higher ratio increases your risk of heart disease.
Cholesterol is only one risk factor. The level at which specific treatment is required will depend on whether other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure, are also present.
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What Are The Normal Ranges For Cholesterol
Once you receive your cholesterol testing results, youâll need a way to compare and understand the numbers they provide. Healthcare providers recommend your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides remain within the following ranges:
- HDL â For men, healthcare providers consider normal HDL levels to be between 40 and 60 mg/dL. For women, a normal HDL range is between 50 and 60 mg/dL.
- LDL â For people 20 years old and older, healthcare providers consider normal LDL levels to be anything below 70 mg/dL to 129 mg/dL.
- Triglycerides â Healthcare providers believe a triglyceride level below 150 mg/dL to be in the normal range.
- Total cholesterol â Healthcare providers consider a total cholesterol level lower than 200 mg/dL to be in the normal, desirable range.
Getting A Cholesterol Test
A blood sample is taken that will be used to determine the amount of bad cholesterol , good cholesterol and other fatty substances in your blood.
You may be asked not to eat for 10-12 hours before the cholesterol test, usually including when you’re asleep at night. This ensures that all food is completely digested and won’t affect the outcome of the test.
Your GP or practice nurse can carry out the cholesterol test and will take a blood sample, either using a needle and a syringe or by pricking your finger.
A newer type of test that measures non-high-density lipoprotein is now sometimes used because it’s thought to be a more accurate way of estimating cardiovascular disease risk than LDL.
Non-HDL cholesterol is total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol. It’s also not necessary to fast before the test, so it is more convenient.
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A More Accurate Measurement Tool
The traditional Friedewald equation estimates LDL cholesterol this way: total cholesterol minus HDL cholesterol minus triglycerides divided by five. For simplicitys sake, the formula applies a one-size-fits-all factor of five to everyone. But Johns Hopkins researchers found that this often makes LDL cholesterol appear lower than it really is for some high-risk patients. The researchers sought a more accurate formula that would take into account specific details about a persons cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Using a database of blood lipid samples from more than 1.3 million Americansalmost 3,000 times larger than the one used to develop the Friedewald equation Johns Hopkins researchers developed a more accurate system for calculating LDL cholesterol. It can be used to make more precise decisions about treatment to prevent heart attack and stroke.
This newer LDL cholesterol formula is being adopted by U.S. laboratories as well as others around the world. The best implementation is direct coding the LDL cholesterol estimation in the lab IT system, which automates the process and saves clinicians time. The formula is also available as a mobile device app called the LDL Cholesterol Calculator. It is available on the iTunes App Store and on Google Play, for those whose lab hasnt adopted it.
Researchers hope the new formula will one day be adopted by all labs that process lipid panels, as it can improve patient care.
Drug Therapies To Treat High Cholesterol
When lifestyle changes alone cannot bring down high cholesterol, doctors may recommend medications. The reports that the following drugs and supplements can help:
- Statins: These drugs keep the liver from producing cholesterol.
- Bile acid sequestrants: These drugs reduce the amount of fat that the body absorbs from food.
- Cholesterol absorption inhibitors: These drugs lower levels of fats called triglycerides in the blood and reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed from food.
- Some vitamins and supplements: These, such as niacin, stop the liver from removing HDL and lower levels of triglycerides.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These raise HDL levels and lower triglyceride levels.
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How Often Should I Have A Cholesterol Test
The National Cholesterol Education Program recommends adults age 20 years or older have a cholesterol test every five years. People who are at risk for heart attack or heart disease or who have a family history of either should be checked more often.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology : “2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Treatment of Blood Cholesterol to Reduce Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Risk in Adults.”
CDC: “Cholesterol Fact Sheet.”
WebMD Medical Reference provided in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Understanding Cholesterol Numbers” and “High Cholesterol: Cholesterol Basics.”
American Heart Association: “What Are Healthy Levels of Cholesterol?”