At Home Cholesterol Testing- The New DIY Project

You can imagine my delight when I arrived home from my vacation last night to find a small box on the steps of my front porch.  Yes, my at-home cholesterol testing device had arrived.  I wish it had been delivered before my vacation.  I was hoping to check my cholesterol prior to my week of indulging in Mexican food and margaritas, but nonetheless I couldn't wait to put my new cholesterol-testing device to work.

There is a bit of a story behind why I find myself checking my cholesterol at home.  Given the nature of my husband's business, a company devoted to helping employers and individuals save money on health care costs, we are always trying to find the most cost effective manner to fulfill our personal health care needs.  My husband and I decided that due to family history and pure curiosity, we wanted to get our cholesterol checked.  Neither of us wanted to find time in our busy schedules to make the traditional doctor's appointment.  So, we got innovative.

My first solution to our cholesterol-testing conundrum was to get our blood drawn at a business called Shots, etc. where you pay cash, 30 bucks for a lipid panel, to get whatever lab work your heart desires.  No routine physical or provider involvement necessary.  However, a week later, my husband just happened to be applying for life insurance and ended up receiving a free cholesterol check.  Unfortunately, when his results came back a bit on the high side we realized some lifestyle changes and repeat testing were in order.  Enter the CardioCheck Analyzer Starter Cholesterol Check Kit.

Naturally, I was a bit skeptical about the accuracy of these at-home cholesterol monitoring devices.  After consulting multiple sources, my worries were abated.  It turns out these little machines perform with abut 95 percent accuracy, very close to the accuracy of the traditional blood-draw lipid panel.  The second problem with many at-home cholesterol testing systems is that they test only total cholesterol.  It is important not only to check total cholesterol level, but also LDL, HDL and Triglycerides.  I wanted the whole package.  

At-home cholesterol testing devices do not typically check LDL.  This problem is solved by purchasing a monitor that checks total cholesterol, HDL and triglycerides.  Using these three values, calculating LDL is simple and can even be done online using MedCalc.  The CardioCheck costs about $125 on Amazon.com and includes six test strips for each lipid test, an initial cost of just over $20 for each lipid panel.  Replacement test strips cost about $4 each.  So, once you have initially purchased the device, a complete lipid panel runs around $12.  

This morning I woke up, and despite my hunger ripped open the CardioCheck box.  After a few seconds of trial and error in operating the device, I figured out how to handle this mini at-home lab.  Before my morning coffee, I had pricked my index finger and checked my total cholesterol (136, oh yeah!), pricked my middle finger and measured my HDL and pricked my pinky and determined my triglyceride level.  10 seconds later after entering these values into my laptop on MedCalc, I had my LDL.  Viola!  Lipid panel at home...and I only had to fast until 6:30am.

No, the CardioCheck Analyzer is not cost effective for individuals requiring only a once-a-year lipid panel.  For patients with high cholesterol, however, at-home cholesterol testing devices may be worth the investment.  Patients can conveniently check their cholesterol once every six weeks or so to monitor their progress.  This is especially useful and cost-effective for families where more than one member have elevated cholesterol levels.  

I will recommend at-home cholesterol testing to my patients with hyperlipidemia.  The ease and convenience of at-home testing will encourage patients to monitor their cholesterol levels more closely.  Rather than taking the time to drive to the clinic, twiddle their thumbs in the waiting room and have their blood drawn in the traditional manner, at-home cholesterol monitoring saves patients time and money.  Nurse practitioners will need to provide some basic education (i.e. what are the different types of cholesterol), but this is simple information you should already be teaching your patients.  My assessment- the CardioCheck Analyzer is worth the expense.

 

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