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home cholesterol testing
Old 06-14-2008, 08:54 AM   #1
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home cholesterol testing

Does anyone do it? We would like to monitor our cholesterol levels ourselves more closely to see if our diet changes are having an effect. I don't want to have our cholesterol scores repeatedly noted in our medical charts, due to obvious concerns about getting health insurance when we FIRE. We've always been health conscious, but the recent coverage of Tim Russert's sudden death (despite a normal stress test just a few months ago) has re-focused our attention. His doctor was just interviewed and said what likely happenned is that a cholesterol plaque suddenly ruptured...and that a stress test done even the morning that he died likely would have STILL been normal. Scary.

The FDA has this to say about home use tests:
"This test is about as accurate as the test your doctor uses, but you must follow the directions carefully. Total cholesterol tests vary in accuracy from brand to brand. Information about the test's accuracy is printed on its package. Tests that say they are 'traceable' to a program of the CDC may be more accurate than others." (OIVD: Home-Use Tests - Cholesterol)

This article seems to think they are not worth the investment despite the fact that they say they are 95% accurate: Accurate or Not? At-Home Cholesterol Tests and Blood Pressure Monitors Their reasons are:

"First, the most readily available (and affordable) tests only measure total cholesterol. A full understanding of your cholesterol profile requires measurements of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides as well.
Second, even if you get a sophisticated cholesterol test, a doctor needs to review your results in combination with your other risk factors -- such as family history, nutritional habits, age, and gender -- to really understand your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Third, and perhaps most important, blood cholesterol -- unlike blood pressure -- doesnít change on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis. Doctors recommend that healthy adults get cholesterol tests every five years; people with higher cholesterol levels or risk factors for cardiovascular disease may need to be tested more often. But even then, testing at home isnít really necessary."

This doesn't convince me they aren't worth the investment. If I were going to buy one, I'd get one that gives all the measurements. Second, we've already discussed our risk factors with our MD. Third, we wouldn't be checking it every day - would wait to test after several months of healthy eating.

Would love to hear feedback especially from anyone who has opinions on certain brands of home test kits.
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Old 06-14-2008, 09:45 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simple girl View Post
Does anyone do it? We would like to monitor our cholesterol levels ourselves more closely to see if our diet changes are having an effect. I don't want to have our cholesterol scores repeatedly noted in our medical charts, due to obvious concerns about getting health insurance when we FIRE. We've always been health conscious, but the recent coverage of Tim Russert's sudden death (despite a normal stress test just a few months ago) has re-focused our attention. His doctor was just interviewed and said what likely happenned is that a cholesterol plaque suddenly ruptured...and that a stress test done even the morning that he died likely would have STILL been normal. Scary.

The FDA has this to say about home use tests:
"This test is about as accurate as the test your doctor uses, but you must follow the directions carefully. Total cholesterol tests vary in accuracy from brand to brand. Information about the test's accuracy is printed on its package. Tests that say they are 'traceable' to a program of the CDC may be more accurate than others." (OIVD: Home-Use Tests - Cholesterol)

This article seems to think they are not worth the investment despite the fact that they say they are 95% accurate: Accurate or Not? At-Home Cholesterol Tests and Blood Pressure Monitors Their reasons are:

"First, the most readily available (and affordable) tests only measure total cholesterol. A full understanding of your cholesterol profile requires measurements of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides as well.
Second, even if you get a sophisticated cholesterol test, a doctor needs to review your results in combination with your other risk factors -- such as family history, nutritional habits, age, and gender -- to really understand your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Third, and perhaps most important, blood cholesterol -- unlike blood pressure -- doesn’t change on a day-to-day or even week-to-week basis. Doctors recommend that healthy adults get cholesterol tests every five years; people with higher cholesterol levels or risk factors for cardiovascular disease may need to be tested more often. But even then, testing at home isn’t really necessary."

This doesn't convince me they aren't worth the investment. If I were going to buy one, I'd get one that gives all the measurements. Second, we've already discussed our risk factors with our MD. Third, we wouldn't be checking it every day - would wait to test after several months of healthy eating.

Would love to hear feedback especially from anyone who has opinions on certain brands of home test kits.
I have not done home testing however my numbers from the doc are within the limits . I am not worried. In fact I have backed off on testing since #1 I will not go on a statin, #2 my HDL has always been over 55 and my LDL is near 130. #3 Triglycerides are 60. weight is fantastic and I run 10 miles a day and have been running for 40+ years. Most home tests are taking total cholesterol numbers. If you know your diet you can assume that your numbers will correlate with what you eat.

Russert in the reports had diabetes From Drudge..Russert's internist, Michael A. Newman, told MSNBC that an autopsy showed the journalist had an enlarged heart and that cholesterol plaque ruptured an artery, causing coronary thrombosis. He said Russert had been diagnosed earlier with coronary artery disease, but that it was controlled with medication and exercise and Russert had performed well on a stress test in late April.




Performed well on a stress test ?? We really have no idea how he did or what his situation was. Stress?? The guy was a real good journalist and I believe there was a major stress component here. The diabetes is also a big factor and weight, he was a big guy.
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Old 06-14-2008, 11:13 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Thisissogreat View Post

Russert in the reports had diabetes From Drudge..Russert's internist, Michael A. Newman, told MSNBC that an autopsy showed the journalist had an enlarged heart and that cholesterol plaque ruptured an artery, causing coronary thrombosis. He said Russert had been diagnosed earlier with coronary artery disease, but that it was controlled with medication and exercise and Russert had performed well on a stress test in late April.
.
Having had stress tests, some years ago, it is highly doubtful that Russert did well. He looked about 100 lb overweight, had difficulty walking as shown in some videos.

Symptoms controlled. Said His Doc. Good cholesterol numbers, supposedly. If that is true, why did the clot break loose, why was there a clot to break loose?
The foregoing would indicate that controlling symptoms via medication, in terms of cholesterol is not very effective at extending life. The cholesterol numbers created by medicated condition may not be of any use in real world outcomes. My guess is Russert relied exclusively on meds, ignored caloric input quantity, physical exercise and walked by his treadmill only when necessary to get to someplace else.

Rarely mentioned: to maintain weight, total caloric input must equal total caloric output. Millions have been made in elaborating on this simple equation

As I understand it, extreme mental exercise burns sugar not fat. So lots of intellectual workouts are not conducive to weight loss. But I agree he was a pretty good journalist.

Edit Add: No I would not do home Cholesterol tests. The number in and of itself is meaningless. Once a year Excella hospital group offer a pretty comprehensive blood test panel for $ 38, copy to my designated Doc. Some of the fee goes to the local EMS and Volunteer fire dept. A very good deal all around .
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Old 06-14-2008, 07:56 PM   #4
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Simple Girl - I think you have very sound reasoning in wanting to use the home test...who would want the insurance companies to be aware that YOU had enough concern to be in the docs office every 2-3 months for a cholesterol check. There are three ways for the insurance company to look at it: 1) Something is wrong, the doc is looking for it, but hasn't been able to pinpoint it, 2) you are a hypochondriac, or 3) both of the above. My advice: Don't give the insurance companies a reason to 1) deny your application, or 2) deny benefits later down the road because the multiple cholesterol testing "had to be related to this recent illness..."

That said, I believe the home test kits can be useful for giving you a general idea of the direction you are taking. That is what a heart-rate monitor is for, which is used in exercise to see "basically" how you are doing. It is not an ECG, it is not a stress test, but gives you an idea. Same with the cholesterol test. I have used them before, and may use them again, probably when we move back to the states and I get my eating and exercise under a bit better control (Its coming along, but sometimes when you are out of the country its not the easiest thing to do, what with unfamiliar foods, etc).

I say go for it, if that is what you want.

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Home Cholseterol Tests
Old 06-15-2008, 01:56 AM   #5
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Home Cholseterol Tests

I may be a little biased but I would not be hesitant to use an at home cholesterol test. What you do want to do is make sure that the test is an FDA-approved test for home use and that it not only provides your total cholesterol but a breakdown of your LDL, HDL and triglycerides. The tests are available at many pharmacies and various home health screening companies. The kits are affordable and should contain everything that is needed to colect a small drop of blood onto a card and then mail the card into the laboratory. These kits are an excellent tool to use if you want to measure the impact of changing diets or exercise program. You really should send a copy to your physician so that they are aware of your results.
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Old 06-15-2008, 08:13 AM   #6
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I've done some research. You can purchase a unit that lets you get total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides. From that, you can run an easy mathematical calculation to figure out LDL.

The unit costs ~ $90 on Amazon. (Amazon.com: CardioChek Portable Blood Test System: Health & Personal Care) The catch is, of course, the test strips. You have to purchase test strips for EACH test; they run about $24 for a pack of 6.

So total investment is $90 plus $72 for 6 test strips, or $27 per test. Additional tests beyond this would drop down to $12 per test.

Not sure yet how important this is to us, but at least I now have some numbers to work with.

Of course you could also send the drop of blood in on a card thing, but that's around $33 per test, and I'm not convinced you'd get a reliable reading from dried blood.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.
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Old 06-15-2008, 03:18 PM   #7
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Symptoms controlled. Said His Doc. Good cholesterol numbers, supposedly. If that is true, why did the clot break loose, why was there a clot to break loose?

The foregoing would indicate that controlling symptoms via medication, in terms of cholesterol is not very effective at extending life.
You can't make such generalizations from a single case. Also, I think you expect too much from the stress test.

A stress test can really only detect a fairly severe existing blockage - it has to be bad enough to reduce the flow so that reduced flow can be detected. Sounds like he had a build up of plaque that wasn't blocking anything, but came loose and suddenly blocked. A test is a test. Can't expect miracles.

Quote:
Rarely mentioned: to maintain weight, total caloric input must equal total caloric output. Millions have been made in elaborating on this simple equation
Oh, it is mentioned very, very often. People seem to choose not to hear it - they want the quick, easy fix, and they do seem to be willing to pay millions in that futile search. So sad.

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Old 06-15-2008, 06:33 PM   #8
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I've done some research. You can purchase a unit that lets you get total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides. From that, you can run an easy mathematical calculation to figure out LDL.

The unit costs ~ $90 on Amazon. (Amazon.com: CardioChek Portable Blood Test System: Health & Personal Care) The catch is, of course, the test strips. You have to purchase test strips for EACH test; they run about $24 for a pack of 6.

So total investment is $90 plus $72 for 6 test strips, or $27 per test. Additional tests beyond this would drop down to $12 per test.

Not sure yet how important this is to us, but at least I now have some numbers to work with.

Of course you could also send the drop of blood in on a card thing, but that's around $33 per test, and I'm not convinced you'd get a reliable reading from dried blood.

Thanks for the feedback everyone.
The Cariocheck is certainly an option if you want to invest in the monitor. I am not sure if it needs quality checks like the blood sugar monitors do but you should look into it as it may add more costs and I don't know how long the test strips are good for. Just some other things to think about.

As far as the dried blood sample, I would not be too worried about it as the technology is approved by the FDA. There are all sorts of dried blood tests now a days. Even with a regular lab, as I get blood tests every 3 months, they draw the blood in the morning and then it sits all day and then they put it outside in a collection box for the lab to pick up later that night, and thats in the Florida heat. Plus, if they can get DNA from ancient samples I am sure they can get cholesterol from dried blood. Just my thoughts.

Good luck.
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Old 06-16-2008, 11:56 AM   #9
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ERD50 Your explanation sound reasonable re: stress test, thanks.
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Old 06-16-2008, 05:52 PM   #10
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Rich will undoubtedly respond here but it is my understanding that "the clot" being described that blocked Tim Russert's LAD artery did not "break loose." The plaque is inside the wall of the artery, not stuck onto the wall of the artery. The plaque deposit pops like a pimple and the stuff that oozes into the vessel causes the blood clot.

I believe the blockages that cause a bad result on the stress test are not the same type that killed Russert.

This is a great article about the mechanics of heart attacks and sudden death.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/he...pagewanted=all
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Old 06-16-2008, 06:16 PM   #11
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We used a home tester when we applied for individual health insurance a few years ago (never did buy it since I got a job in time). DH started out with a completely unacceptable cholesterol level but he ended up getting his level low enough (no meat and no sugar and only good stuff for 5 weeks) to get a preferred rate even at 54 years old. I was testing him at least once a week.

I know the tester results weren't perfect but the readout let him know the diet change was making a difference so it was great motivation (as was a constantly nagging wife). The tester must have been pretty close as the final home readings before the insurance company nurse drew his blood were a bit under 220. Seems like he would have had to be below 220 to get preferred.

Tim Russert's death definitely has him thinking and we are having fish for the second night in a row.
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:15 PM   #12
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Thanks Buckeye, another learning experience. The NYT video is good.
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Old 06-16-2008, 07:36 PM   #13
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We used a home tester when we applied for individual health insurance a few years ago (never did buy it since I got a job in time). DH started out with a completely unacceptable cholesterol level but he ended up getting his level low enough (no meat and no sugar and only good stuff for 5 weeks) to get a preferred rate even at 54 years old. I was testing him at least once a week.

I know the tester results weren't perfect but the readout let him know the diet change was making a difference so it was great motivation (as was a constantly nagging wife). The tester must have been pretty close as the final home readings before the insurance company nurse drew his blood were a bit under 220. Seems like he would have had to be below 220 to get preferred.

Tim Russert's death definitely has him thinking and we are having fish for the second night in a row.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. The motivation part was a piece of what I'm looking for - like having a scale to step on when you are trying to lose weight.
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