Cholesterol Test Kit: FSA Eligibility
No prescription required.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a waxy-like substance is created in the liver and ingested in animal products like meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Cholesterol contributes to the body's ability to build new cells, insulate nerves and produce hormones. However, a person ingests a diet high in saturated and trans fats, the liver will begin to produce more cholesterol than is needed, which can raise the risk for heart disease and other conditions.
Elevated levels of cholesterol can cause the substance to begin building up in the walls of the arteries in a process called atherosclerosis, a form of heart disease. However, a person's heart disease risk is closely tied to HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is the "bad" cholesterol derived from food sources, which in elevated levels can cause plaque buildup in arteries.
Conversely, HDL cholesterol produced naturally in the body as a result of exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, and lower levels are known to protect against heart attack and stroke. HDL cholesterol removes LDL cholesterol from the arteries and carries it back to the liver to be broken down and passed. Cholesterol is undeniably vital to the body's normal physiological functions, and close monitoring of these levels is an effective barometer for the state of an individual's heart health (MedlinePlus).
How does a cholesterol test work?
Cholesterol test kits that individuals can use at home have widespread availability, in both special test strips or electronic meter to measure the amount of cholesterol automatically. The less expensive test strips typically measure total cholesterol and requires a small blood sample that is applied onto a test strip. The test strip is embedded with special chemicals that will change colors after coming into contact with a blood sample, and the resulting hue can be matched with a color guide that is included in the kit.
Electronic cholesterol test kits are also available, which offer a much larger range of diagnostic numbers, including HDL/LDL cholesterol levels, as well as triglycerides, a key mark of heart disease risk that measures the amount of fat in the blood. These test kits function in the same way as a diabetes blood glucose meter, which use a test strip that is inserted into the device and measure important cholesterol numbers automatically.
Cholesterol test kits are a helpful tool for individuals looking to begin cholesterol monitoring, but it's important to weigh other factors such as family history, hypertension and smoking to better assess an individual's heart health. Speaking with a physician is a good first step to determine how to best manage cholesterol levels and whether at-home testing is a smart choice to reduce heart disease risk (Healthline).