At-home medical testing now includes genetic tests, tests for some chronic infections, and at-home cholesterol tests. In fact, most at-home cholesterol tests on the market, also called capillary cholesterol tests, give accurate readings if done correctly.

An at-home capillary cholesterol test can help you monitor your cholesterol levels at home and note any significant changes. They don’t replace a lab test, but they can give you a good idea of your overall cholesterol levels.

A high cholesterol reading on an at-home test is a good reason to make a medical appointment where you can talk with a doctor about any changes to your cholesterol levels.

This article will take a closer look at-home capillary cholesterol tests, the pros and cons of these tests, and when they should be used.

An at-home cholesterol test is also called a capillary cholesterol test. It uses a drop of your blood to give you a reading of your cholesterol.

With some tests, you can get the results in just a few minutes. Other tests will ask you to send your blood sample back through the mail for lab processing. Either way, you can complete the test at home. It’s faster, more private, and more convenient for many people than a visit to a doctor’s office.

There are multiple tests and test types available. The right test for you depends on your budget and how quickly you need results. Following instructions exactly as directed is important for accurate results.

Most capillary cholesterol tests measure your total cholesterol. This measurement includes both the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — the “bad” cholesterol — and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) — the “good” cholesterol — in your blood.

Some types of tests can also give you a reading of your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides, but this is much less common. Tests that do show this information are often more expensive or require you to wait longer for lab results.

Tests that only show total cholesterol can be helpful but lack important information. You won’t have a complete picture of your cholesterol and cardiac health without knowing your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides.

However, these tests are helpful if you want to keep an eye on your total cholesterol and monitor any changes.

What’s a desirable cholesterol level?

According to the National Library of Medicine, a desirable total cholesterol level is less than 200 mg/dL. A level of 200 to 239 mg/dL is considered borderline high, while a reading of 240 mg/dL and above is considered high.

These measurements are general guidelines. A desirable level for you may be different based on your overall health, other conditions you may have, medications you’re taking, and other factors.

At-home capillary cholesterol test approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are usually accurate. However, these tests are only accurate if they’re used correctly.

Since these tests are done without any help from medical professionals, it’s easy to make mistakes, which can lead to inaccurate results. The results can be affected by common errors, such as:

  • squeezing too much or too little blood from your finger onto the testing strip
  • not fasting for at least 8 hours before taking the test
  • doing an intense workout 12 to 24 hours before you take the test, which can falsely raise HDL levels above your normal baseline

Keep in mind that not all brands are equally accurate. Some tests provide more accurate and detailed results than others. It’s a good idea to read reviews of any at-home cholesterol test you’re considering buying to ensure you’re buying one that’s reliable and accurate.

An at-home capillary cholesterol test isn’t a replacement for a medical appointment. No test will be as accurate as a cholesterol blood test that’s done at a doctor’s office. That doesn’t mean a capillary blood test isn’t worth taking. The test can help you monitor your cholesterol levels and notice any changes.

As a rule, it’s not recommended to take a capillary blood test more than once every 6 months. However, your doctor might have a different recommendation based on your cholesterol and overall heart health.

If you take a capillary cholesterol test and your results are high, it’s a good idea to follow up with your doctor.

An at-home test can be a good fit for people who are concerned about their cholesterol. For instance, if your cholesterol has been increasing in recent years and you’re taking steps to help lower it, an at-home test can help you track your progress.

Similarly, if you’ve been told your cholesterol is creeping up, or that it’s slightly above average, an at-home test can help you monitor your cholesterol to ensure it doesn’t increase further. You can use the results as a jumping-off point for conversations with your doctor about cholesterol.

At-home cholesterol tests are popular and offer several benefits, but they’re not ideal for everyone. Consider the following benefits and drawbacks before buying a test.

Pros:

  • Convenience: Tests are easy to find. You can purchase them at drug stores, grocery stores, and online. Plus, you don’t need a prescription to get one.
  • Speed: Results of some tests are ready in minutes. Even with tests that have to be sent back to a lab, the process is often faster than scheduling a doctor’s appointment and then waiting for results.
  • Comfort: You can do the test right from the comfort of your home at any time of the day or night.
  • Cost: Tests are available at a variety of price points, so you can choose what works best for you.
  • Monitoring: Testing at home can help you keep track of your cholesterol and have data to share with your doctor. This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to stay on track with a new lifestyle plan or new medication.

Cons

  • Many tests only read total cholesterol: You won’t get a picture of your complete heart health without HDL, LDL, and triglyceride readings.
  • It’s easy to make mistakes: Tests are accurate if done correctly, but it can be easy to make mistakes when you’re trying to complete the test on your own. This can affect the accuracy of the test.
  • Inaccurate results can mislead you about your health: Getting inaccurate results can cause you to believe your cholesterol is higher or lower than it truly is.
  • Some tests can be expensive: Some tests, especially ones that can also read your HDL and LDL, can be expensive. These tests are unlikely to be covered by your insurance company.

A capillary cholesterol test can help you monitor your cholesterol at home. With a single drop of blood, you can check your cholesterol without a doctor’s appointment. Some tests provide results in minutes. With others, you’ll need to mail your blood sample to a lab and will get the results back in a few days.

At-home tests are accurate if done correctly. It’s important to carefully follow the instructions that come with your test.

Most at-home tests only measure total cholesterol. You need readings of your HDL, LDL, and triglycerides to get a complete picture of your cholesterol. To fully understand your cholesterol levels and heart health, you’ll need to visit a doctor and get a more detailed test.