Are home cholesterol test kits accurate?

Answers from Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D.

Home cholesterol test kits don't substitute for a cholesterol test performed by medical professionals. The accuracy of home cholesterol test kits varies, and results can't offer a complete picture of your risk of developing heart disease.

Home cholesterol test kits are widely available. Many cholesterol test kits measure only total cholesterol. But a few also measure high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides — a type of fat found in the blood. Although home cholesterol testing seems fast and easy, it's important to regard the results with caution.

Even when cholesterol testing is done by trained professionals in a lab, your test results can vary. The variability may be even greater with home cholesterol test kits, especially if you're not fasting when you take the test, or if you don't precisely follow the directions.

Remember, cholesterol management requires more than simply measuring your cholesterol numbers. It's important to consider other factors — such as family history, smoking and high blood pressure — when deciding how to maintain your heart's health. Your doctor can help you figure out how to best manage your cholesterol.

April 26, 2013 See more Expert Answers