Taking an active role in your healthcare makes the most positive impact on your health. And at-home monitoring allows you to detect potential problems early so your healthcare provider can make adjustments to your treatment to help ward off serious problems. Consider these doctor-approved do-it-yourself tests:
Measure your blood pressure
Measuring your blood pressure at home can show you and your healthcare provider how much (or how little) your pressure varies during the day and can provide early detection if you’re in the beginning stages of high blood pressure. Your provider uses the measurements to determine whether medicine is needed or how your current medication is working. You can pick up a blood pressure monitor without a prescription at your drugstore.
Blood pressure lower than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal. High blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. Most healthcare providers suggest that you check your blood pressure several times a day before they determine whether or not you have high blood pressure.
Call the doctor if: your blood pressure continually reads 140/90 mm Hg or higher or if you feel dizzy or have chest pain, confusion, ear noise or buzzing, an irregular heartbeat, a nosebleed, tiredness or vision changes. If your blood pressure spikes suddenly, you could be at risk of a stroke, and if your numbers reach 180 mm Hg or higher over 120 mm Hg or higher, your blood vessels can become damaged and your heart won’t be able to pump blood properly. If you experience a severe headache, anxiety or shortness of breath, get medical attention immediately.
Control your diabetes
Checking your blood sugar with a glucose meter is essential to staying healthy. There’s no “right” number of times a day to test. At certain times, such as when you’re first diagnosed, you’ll benefit from testing several times a day to help get your blood glucose in a healthy range.
You can use a blood glucose monitor to draw and test a drop of blood from your finger, hand, forearm or thigh. Different types of meters are available, including some with memory and others with easy-to-read displays for people with vision problems.
Call the doctor if: your blood sugar levels are either very high or very low, as this can be a sign of an underlying infection or trouble with certain medicines. If you feel nauseous, sluggish or shaky; have blurred vision; are feeling faint; or have stomach pain or vomiting, get immediate medical attention.
Monitor your cholesterol
Some cholesterol test kits measure your total cholesterol; others also measure HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Even lab testing can show varying results, and there can be even more variations with tests done at home. Ideally, your total cholesterol should measure less than 200 mg/dL. Anything above this is
considered borderline high or high.
Call the doctor if: you’ve made changes to your diet and are exercising at least 30 minutes a day and your cholesterol is still high. Your doctor can re-check your treatment and may prescribe medication or change your medicine to help get your numbers down. There are usually no physical symptoms of high cholesterol but sometimes it can cause chest pain; get immediate help if this is the case.
Watch your weight
Your bathroom scale is a powerful tool in achieving weight loss. Weigh yourself at least once a week if you’re trying to lose weight. Remember to set a goal of slow and steady weight loss—1 to 2 pounds a week.
Call the doctor if: you’ve been reducing your food intake and have been exercising but you’re not losing weight. Your medications could be interfering with weight loss, or you may have a condition that affects your metabolism, such as hypothyroidism.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, ovulation is an exciting time. It usually takes place on the 14th day of the menstrual cycle. But for some women, ovulation can vary from month to month, so pinpointing “the” moment can be tricky. There are a few home tests you can take to give you a better idea of when conception is more likely.
Your basal body temperature, which rises during ovulation, could provide a good clue: Take your temperature every morning, using a digital thermometer. Jot down your readings and look for a pattern—you’ll be most fertile two to three days before your temperature rises. You can also try an at-home ovulation kit, which tests your urine for hormonal peaks that happen prior to ovulation.
Call the doctor if: you’ve tried to get pregnant for at least one year without success. If you’re 35 or older, see your healthcare provider if you’ve tried for six months; he or she can help you find out why you haven’t conceived.