Home testing is more popular than ever, and pharmacies now sell an array of diagnostic medical devices that could help you to take your wellbeing into your own hands.
Whether it’s long waiting times at your GP surgery, or a set of embarrassing symptoms that you’re too shy to get checked out, there are plenty of reasons why people might choose to cut out middle man (or woman) and check themselves at home.
Simple to use and highly convenient, many of these tests can be done in minutes and the results can be as instantaneous too.
That being said, like any medical test, over-the-counter products are not foolproof and should only be used as a rough guide, but they can often give you an indicator of whether something is off.
If you receive any unusual results, or your symptoms prevail or are getting worse, remember to follow up with a doctor to check whether any further testing or treatment is needed.
5 health tests you can do at home
Here are five DIY health tests and what they’re for…
1. Blood pressure
High blood pressure usually doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms, but if left unchecked, it can be very serious – so experts suggest that all adults get their numbers checked at least once a year.
While most people will have this done as part of their annual review with their GP, you can give yourself peace of mind by buying your own blood pressure monitor, such as Boots Pharmaceuticals Advanced Blood Pressure Monitor with Atrial Fibrillation Alert (£99.99, Boots).
Much like the device used at the doctor’s surgery, it comes with a cuff that you wrap around your upper arm. The band will slowly inflate to get an accurate reading on the accompanying digital monitor. It’s always good to remember that certain factors – such as stress, smoking, caffeine, cold temperatures and talking – can cause your blood to temporarily rise, so sit down calmly and try to avoid these things when you’re taking your recordings.
2. DNA disease risk kits
At-home DNA testing kits have surged in popularity recently, thanks to their improved affordability and convenience. Different brands offer different insights, and while most promise to help you to delve into your family history, others, such as The Atlas ‘Listen To Your Genes’ DNA Test (£149, atlasbiomed.com), claim they can reveal which diseases or health complications you may be at risk of.
You simply spit in the supplied tube and send it back in the original box, which already includes prepaid postage. The lab then check 750,000 polymorphisms (gene variants) and interprets the data, updating your results to an accompanying app.
As well as checking for the risk of diseases like diabetes and Crohn’s, the analysis says it can help you understand how your body metabolises fats, pick up on food intolerances, and provide insights to make your workouts more effective. However, it’s good to keep in mind that results from genetic testing kits aren’t always guaranteed to be accurate.
After turning 40, people in the UK are encouraged to have their cholesterol checked every five years. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that occurs naturally in the body that’s essential for healthy functioning. However, having too much ‘bad cholesterol’ can be a problem, and is known to increase the risk of coronary and vascular disease.
Home cholesterol kits, such as Boots Pharmaceuticals Cholesterol Home Test Kit (£12.99, Boots) can indicate your blood cholesterol levels. You simply have to hold your middle finger against a lancet to prick it, wait until blood forms and then drop it onto the test card provided. After a few minutes, you can match the colour of your results against an accompanying results chart.
4. Sexually transmitted infections
Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is straightforward and confidential, but many of us put off going to the clinic to get things checked.
Many high street pharmacies, like Superdrug and Lloyds Pharmacy sell home test kit to help detect infections like chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Most will require you to either take a swab or urine sample and post it away. You’ll then receive your results within a few days of your sample reaching the lab.
Some STIs, like chlamydia, can show no symptoms, so it’s recommended those who are sexually active get tested annually. If you think you’ve put yourself at risk of HIV though, you should always get your blood tested at a sexual health clinic.
5. Blood sugar
High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a major concern and can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Having a blood sugar level that’s too high can make you feel unwell, and having it often can be bad for your health.
Blood sugar levels can be measured in seconds at home by using a blood glucose meter, also known as a glucometer. A tiny drop of blood from the finger or forearm is placed on a test strip and inserted into the glucometer, such as the Kinetik Wellbeing Blood Glucose Monitoring System (£24.99, Amazon). The blood sugar (or glucose) level is then displayed digitally just seconds later.
While home testing kits may have their benefits, they don’t replace the role of doctors and it’s always best to get any worrying or ongoing symptoms properly checked out.
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