Home cholesterol meters
Home cholesterol meters are devices that allow individuals to measure their cholesterol levels at home, without needing to visit a laboratory or healthcare professional. These devices are small, portable, and relatively easy to use, making them a convenient option for people who want to monitor their cholesterol levels regularly.
The main types of home cholesterol meters are based on electrochemical or reflectance technology, which measure the amount of cholesterol in a small sample of blood taken from a fingertip. To use a home cholesterol meter, individuals typically need to prick their finger with a lancet to obtain a small drop of blood, which is then placed onto a disposable test strip that is inserted into the meter. Once the test strip is in the meter, the device analyses the blood sample and provides a digital readout of the cholesterol levels within a few minutes. The readout may display the total cholesterol level or break it down into high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Home cholesterol meters can be useful for people who have a history of high cholesterol, are at risk of heart disease, or are on cholesterol-lowering medications. By monitoring their cholesterol levels at home, individuals can track their progress over time, and make any necessary adjustments to their diet, exercise, or medication regimen as needed. However, it's important to note that home cholesterol meters may not be as accurate or reliable as laboratory-based cholesterol tests, and their results may vary depending on factors such as user error, temperature, humidity, or the quality of the test strips. Therefore, it's recommended to use home cholesterol meters as a screening tool, and to follow up with a healthcare professional for more comprehensive testing and treatment if necessary.
How can I ensure that I get reliable results from my home cholesterol meter
To ensure that you get reliable results from your home cholesterol meter, you can follow these tips:
Read the instructions carefully: It's important to carefully read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for your home cholesterol meter. This includes how to prepare the device for use, how to obtain a blood sample, and how to interpret the results.
Check the expiration date: Ensure that the cholesterol test strips are not expired, and that they are stored in a cool, dry place. Exposure to heat, humidity, or light can affect the accuracy of the test results.
Calibrate the meter: Some home cholesterol meters require regular calibration to ensure accurate readings. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer to calibrate the device, as needed.
Use the correct amount of blood: Using the correct amount of blood is crucial to obtaining accurate test results. Follow the manufacturer's instructions on how to obtain the correct amount of blood, and avoid using a blood sample that is too small or too large.
Follow the recommended testing frequency and always test at the same time of day ideally fasted: Follow the recommended testing frequency recommended by your healthcare professional or the manufacturer. Over-testing or testing at different times of day or when not fasting can lead to lead to erratic results .
Compare your results with laboratory results: It's a good idea to compare the results obtained from your home cholesterol meter with laboratory-based cholesterol tests performed by a healthcare professional. This can help you to determine how accurate your home cholesterol meter is but make sure that you perform the home test under the same conditions as the lab test was performed.
Consult with a healthcare professional: If you have any concerns about the accuracy of your home cholesterol meter, or if you have persistent discrepancies between your home test results and laboratory-based tests, it's important to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide advice on how to use the device correctly, and whether further testing or treatment is necessary.
Frequently asked questions about home cholesterol meters
I did 2 tests using the same cholesterol meter on same day and they were different why is this?
It's also possible that the readings were affected by differences in how the blood sample was taken or prepared, or by other factors such as the timing of the tests relative to your meals or activities.
Could the size of the blood sample affect the cholesterol test result?
Yes, too small a sample will often fail to trigger the meter and result in the cholesterol test strip being wasted. The size of the blood sample can also potentially affect the cholesterol test result. For accurate results most cholesterol meters require a larger amount of blood than a glucose meter to perform the test, and the accuracy of the result can be influenced by the amount of blood used. If the blood sample is too small, it may not provide enough serum to obtain an accurate reading. Conversely, if the blood sample is too large, it may dilute the serum and affect the concentration of cholesterol in the sample, leading to a potentially inaccurate result.
In short it is very important to master the finger prick lancing technique to obtain accurate results, so expect to have to practice this technique when you first start testing. See below for more advice on how to master this.
To minimise the risk of obtaining an inaccurate cholesterol test result due to the size of the blood sample, it's important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for the cholesterol meter carefully, including the recommended volume of blood to be used for the test. If you have concerns about the accuracy of the test results, it may be a good idea to repeat the test, ensuring that the same amount of blood is used each time, and to consult with a healthcare professional if there are persistent discrepancies or concerns.
How do I obtain a good finger prick blood sample?
To obtain a good fingerprick blood sample for a cholesterol test, you can follow these steps:
Choose a site: The most common site for a fingerprick is the fingertip, usually the middle or ring finger. Choose a clean, dry site that is free from any visible cuts, bruises, or calluses.
Clean the site: Clean the site with an alcohol swab or soap and water to remove any dirt or oils that may interfere with the test result. Allow the area to air dry or use a sterile gauze pad to dry the area.
Warm the site: Warm the chosen finger by washing it in warm water for a few minutes or by massaging it gently. This can increase blood flow to the area, making it easier to obtain a blood sample.
Prick the site: Use a sterile tip lancet, ideally in a spring loaded auto-lancing device, to prick the fingertip at the side of the finger, avoiding the centre to minimise pain. Follow the instructions on the lancet for use.
Collect the blood sample: Try not to squeeze the finger but instead allow a drop of blood to form naturally. Some home cholesterol meters also recommend wiping away the first blood drop that forms, and using the second drop for testing as this will give a more accurate result.
Introduce the blood drop sample to the test strips as per the manufacturers instructions, and wait for the cholesterol meter to trigger its reading and the for the results to appear. The results time will vary from meter to meter but is usually less than 5 minutes.
Each lancet is single use and should be disposed of according to local regulations.
It's important to note that some people may find fingerpricks uncomfortable or painful. If you have concerns about performing a fingerprick blood sample or have difficulty obtaining enough blood for the test, it may be a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for advice or assistance.
Variation in cholesterol readings
The first thing to say is ensure you are comparing like with like. There are many different scales for recording blood cholesterol levels that are used internationally, and it is easy to get caught out. Make certain that your meter display is set to the scale that you are familiar with, or use one of the conversion charts that are widely available online.
Cholesterol levels can vary for a number of reasons, and it's not uncommon to get different readings when measuring cholesterol levels multiple times. By far the most common reason for this is poor blood sample collection, with the finger being over squeezed and the resulting blood droplet being concentrated or diluted.
Other possible explanations for the difference in cholesterol readings could be due to variations in the testing methodology or equipment used to measure cholesterol levels. Another possibility is that the cholesterol levels may have fluctuated naturally over time, due to changes in diet, exercise habits, or other factors that can influence cholesterol levels. It's also important to note that cholesterol levels can vary throughout the day, and may be affected by factors such as stress, illness, and medications.
Therefore, it's generally recommended to measure cholesterol levels at least twice, with a gap of a few weeks between tests, and always on a fasting blood sample to get a more accurate picture of a person's overall cholesterol profile.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol levels, it may be a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional and get a laboratory-based cholesterol test, which is typically more accurate and reliable than a home test. Additionally, it's important to take steps to manage cholesterol levels through lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication if necessary.