My recent review of the Duo-Care for testing both blood pressure and blood glucose got me thinking.
I wasn’t thrilled with that combination. But many of us with diabetes have high cholesterol. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a meter that tests both blood glucose and cholesterol?
We can, of course, get our cholesterol levels checked at a lab or a doctor’s office. But we could check these levels much more often and conveniently if we do the tests at home.
We can do that with a hand-held meter called the CardioChek from Polymer Technology Systems (PTS) in Indianapolis, Indiana. Using different strips, it can test total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, and triglycerides. It no longer sells strips to test LDL (bad) cholesterol, blood glucose, or ketones.
The CardioChek recently replaced the Bioscanner 2000, which also tested creatinine. PTS no longer supports the Bioscanner 2000, except for the creatinine test.
Companies are usually enthusiastic to send me meters for my review. However, PTS was an exception.
After my first request, a company representative wrote me, “we will not be sending a CardioChek for your review. The product is targeted toward men and women with heart disease.”
That response amazed me, and I went back and looked again at the CardioChek website. I responded that I couldn’t help but notice that in addition to lipids the CardioChek also measures ketones and glucose -- as it did at the time, but not in February 2009 as I update this article.
I pointed out that “only people with diabetes measure ketones and glucose.” I said that there was something strange in the company’s reluctance to have the CardioChek reviewed in a diabetes publication, particularly because people with diabetes have a high rate of heart disease.
A former PTS employee told me that not targeting people with diabetes is “kind of foolish.” I still don’t understand the company’s initial refusal to send me a meter for review, but eventually they did send me one.
The meter seems to be so valuable, however, that the PTS marketing director asked me to return it after I have finished my review. Along with the meter, I got three strips for testing total cholesterol.
So far I have tested my total cholesterol with the CardioChek just once. It was apparently down to 161 mg/dl from the 207 mg/dl level at my doctor’s office just a month earlier.
This is such a difference that I don’t know yet which level to trust. Still, I am pleased that my total cholesterol level is below the 200 mg/dl target of the National Cholesterol Education Program.
To convert mg/dl cholesterol values to mmol/L divide them by 38.7, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program. Since I hadn’t set up the CardioCheck correctly for the U.S., I had to multiply the 4.17 mmol/L value I got by 38.7. A call to three people at PTS customer service confirmed my arithmetic.
Total cholesterol was the only level that I was able to test with the CardioChek. But it’s not the most important cholesterol level. LDL cholesterol is, and the CardioChek doesn't even test it.
“Elevated LDL cholesterol [is] the primary target of cholesterol-lowering therapy,” says the National Cholesterol Education Program. Only if LDL is below 100 mg/dl, is it good enough that we don’t need to take one of the statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The American Diabetes Association generally accepts the LDL level of100 mg/dl. But it now has a lower optional goal of 70 mg/dl.
The ADA would also like us to reduce our triglycerides to less than 150 mg/dl and for men to increase HDL cholesterol to more than 40 mg/dl and for women to be more than 50 mg/dl.
In general, we don’t know how we are doing with most of these levels. But a recent report indicated that only 37 percent of adults with diagnosed diabetes had an A1C of less than 7 percent, only 36 percent had a blood pressure of less than 130/80 mmHg, and just 48 percent had a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dl.
Only 7.3 percent of people with diabetes achieved all three treatment goals. I am delighted that I am now a part of this group.
PTS generally sells its valuable CardioChek meter through nine mail-order and Internet distributors in the United States (as well as in some other countries). These firms offer it at widely differing prices from about $120 on up.
As to strips, one distributor, for example, sells a vial of 6 total cholesterol strips for $21.45 and 25 blood glucose strips for $19.05. Since many other meter manufacturers offer blood glucose test strip for their meters for much less, this indicates to me that you probably would not want to use this meter to do routine blood glucose testing.
The CardioChek takes a lot of blood and a long time to test total cholesterol. This test requires a 15 microliter drop of blood, which is considerably more than the 1 microliter or less that almost all modern blood glucose meters require. It returns a result in about a minute, which compares with five seconds or less with most modern blood glucose meters.
The CardioChek is much bigger and heavier than today’s blood glucose meters. It measures 6 inches long by 3 inches wide and an inch thick. It weighs 5.2 ounces.
The meter’s case says that it is made in Thailand. But strangely nowhere on the meter does it say where it is made.
Another company offers a much better alternative to the CardioChek for cholesterol testing.
Home Access Health Corporation in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, lists its Home Access Instant Cholesterol Test for $14.95. It provides a result in 15 minutes. But it only tests total cholesterol. The company’s new Accessa Convenience Kit, which includes full lipid profile (total cholesterol, HDL, triglycerides and LDL) as well as the alanine aminotransferase (ALT) liver enzyme, is not yet available to consumers.
Formerly BioSafe Medical Technologies in Lake Forest, Illinois, offered the BioSafe Cholesterol Panel for $34.95. This was a mail-in test of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol , triglycerides, and calculated LDL cholesterol. But the company is now (as of February 2009) out of business.
While like the Duo-Care you might not use the CardioChek to test your blood glucose, it can give you easy access to some of the cholesterol levels.