Simple Home Cholesterol Test
With a home cholesterol test kit you can easily determine the cholesterol level in your blood. But what is cholesterol and why is the level so important?
Cholesterol is usually associated with fatty foods, health problems, atherosclerosis, and other bad things. The fact is that cholesterol is naturally present in our body. It is a waxy substance found in the cell membranes of all mammals. Cholesterol is not some toxic substance, it is an essential substance needed to produce steroid hormones, some fat-soluble vitamins and bile acids - this is where the cholesterol got its name. Greek word 'chole' means bile and 'stereos' means solid. Bile acids help the body to digest fat and absorb fat-soluble vitamins in the small intestine. Therefore, cholesterol is essential for our health. It is manufactured by the liver and is also needed for making hormones like oestrogen, testosterone and adrenaline.
Cholesterol can cause health problems when its level is higher than needed for normal body processes. Cholesterol can be consumed with animal fats. This can increase the level of cholesterol in our blood and it can then stick to the walls of arteries. Excessive cholesterol on the walls of arteries is called plaque - it can narrow arteries or even block them.
The level of cholesterol can be reported in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimole per liter (mmol/l) - here you can read more about cholesterol units. Normal cholesterol levels are about 210 mg/dL (or 5.5 millimoles per liter). A normal level for each individual depends on many factors, the listed figure is only an average value. High cholesterol level can cause fatty deposits on the surface of the arteries and this can form calcium plaques.
Plaque narrows arteries and blocks blood from flowing which can lead to stroke or heart disease - a condition known as atherosclerosis. High cholesterol level is not the only cause of atherosclerosis. Smoking, high blood pressure and overweight can also cause it. There are no obvious symptoms for high blood cholesterol. The only way to get the cholesterol level is to analyze blood. This can be done at our doctor but it is also possible to do it at home. With a simple home cholesterol test it is possible to determine the cholesterol level in our blood. High cholesterol can be prevented and treated. Regular exercises and appropriate diet can also contribute to lower cholesterol levels.
Good fats, bad fats
Cholesterol is a waxy fat and does not dissolve in water or blood. This means that can not be carried by the blood on its own. It needs some carrier called lipoproteins. The liver manufactures cholesterol from fats in our diet. It is then attached to lipoproteins. There are two major types of lipoproteins - low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). The major carrier of cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body is LDL. It is also the cause for depositing excessive cholesterol on the surface of the arteries.
The function of HDL is opposite - it reduces cholesterol level by taking it from the blood stream and transferring it back to the liver. HDL reduces cholesterol level. Sometimes it is also called good cholesterol, while LDL is called bad cholesterol. We need high HDL and low LDL levels. The higher the ratio of HDL to LDL – the lower your risk of artery disease.
The levels of HDL and LDL depend on the types of fats we eat. According to the chemical compositions, fats in our diets are divided into different types: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The difference is the number of hydrogen atoms in the fat molecule. Saturated fats rise LDL level. Full fat dairy products, processed meats like salami and sausages, snack foods like chips, takeaway foods (especially deep fried foods), cakes, biscuits and pastries, coconut oil and palm oil contain saturated fats and can contribute to higher LDL levels.
On the other hand, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats increase the level of HDL. Monounsaturated fats are present in canola oil, olive oil, avocados and most nuts, polyunsaturated fats can be found in oils of seeds and grains, such as sunflower, safflower, corn, soybeans and walnuts. Since HDL reduces cholesterol in the blood, consuming monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can reduce the risk of artery disease.
Cholesterol level can only be determined by a blood test. A doctor takes a sample of the blood with a needle. This blood is then tested for various substances including triglycerides, LDL and HDL. The testing procedure is pretty fast, you can get result in few minutes. Since some time it is also possible to do a home cholesterol test. It is very similar to the cholesterol test done in hospitals. You still need a blood sample, but you don't have to go to your doctor.
With a home cholesterol test kit it is possible to test cholesterol level anywhere, not just at home. For such cholesterol test you need no special equipment or training. The basic purpose of a home cholesterol test is to measure total cholesterol level. This is a combination of HDL, LDL and VLDL levels and is supported by all home cholesterol test kits. The test is performed by putting a blood sample (one drop is enough) on a special paper. This paper contains chemicals which change color when they are combined with cholesterol. The color change depends on the cholesterol level.
Home cholesterol test kits have many advantages: when used correctly, they are accurate up to 95% of the time, they are readily available - you don't need a prescription to use one and they are relatively inexpensive. Home cholesterol test requires only one or two drops of blood from your fingertip and after 10 minutes you simply read the test device just like a thermometer to determine your total cholesterol level. Many people forget to fast for at least 9 to 12 hours before using a home cholesterol test, which can cause the test results to be much higher than they actually are.
Home cholesterol test can be accurate, but it is not easy to determine the normal cholesterol level. In general, normal cholesterol level is below 210 mg/dl (5.5 millimoles/liter). However, you should consult your doctor for proper evaluation of the cholesterol test results. Some home cholesterol tests give only the total cholesterol level while others can provide also LDL, HDL and triglyceride levels. Here you can read more about normal cholesterol levels.