At-Home Medical Tests: Right for You?

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Rising Costs of Raising a Baby
In the United States, the cost to deliver a baby vaginally, assuming there are no complications, can range from $9,000 to $17,000. If complications arise, or a C-section is required, delivery costs can skyrocket from $14,000 to $25,000. The average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is $245,600.

Estimated Cost Per Year to Raise a Child:
Housing = $4,000
Food = $2,000
Transportation = $1,700
Clothing = $550
Health care = $750
Childcare/ education = $1,400
College = $12,800

Cholesterol Tests
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the bloodstream and is an important and necessary part of cellular function in the body. Cholesterol helps cell membranes produce bile, hormones, and vitamin D. It is made in the liver and also found in foods derived from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs.

There are two types of cholesterol: low density lipoproteins (LDLs), known as bad cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), known as good cholesterol. While small amounts of cholesterol are necessary, too much causes plaque buildup in arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Cholesterol levels can be used as an indicator of heart health. Plastic surgeon Dr. Drew Ordon demonstrates how an at-home cholesterol test works.

"Cholesterol is something that you should be following along with your doctor," E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says. "If you just want a snapshot of total cholesterol, [at-home tests] don't measure the sub-sets, which is what's really important. This [test] doesn't factor in your own medical problems."

Fertility Tests

OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson and pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears outline accurate and reliable fertility tests for men and women

LDL levels should be below 100 in men and women.
HDL levels should be above 50 in women and 40 for men.
Triglycerides, a type of fat found in blood, should be below 150 for men and women.

Total Cholesterol Levels:
Acceptable: less than 170 mg
Borderline: 170-199mg
High: 200mg or greater

A healthy diet, avoiding foods high in saturated fats, regular exercise and maintaining an ideal weight are easy ways to keep cholesterol levels in check.

Foods to Increase Fertility
Foods high in zinc, such as turkey and chicken, as well as caffeinated beverages, can help increase sperm production and motility.

"For guys, a little cup of joe will give the sperm a little giddyup!" Dr. Ordon says with a wink. "It's all about that motility, and the xanthenes in the coffee have a direct affect on sperm."

"A glass of milk or a little ice cream here and there will actually help [a woman's] fertility," Dr. Lisa adds.


Check out an easy way to determine your child's asthma level.

Pregnancy Tests

Dr. Lisa says that at-home pregnancy tests are just as accurate as the ones administered in the doctor's office. The urine test measures human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone produced during pregnancy, detectable eight days after implantation.

Urinary Tract and Bladder Infections

Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are bladder infections, and 75 percent of women will suffer one at least once in their lifetime. Women are 25 times more likely to develop a UTI than men, mainly due to their anatomy.

The kidneys filter blood and send urine down to the bladder via two ureters that run parallel to one another. Urine pools in the bladder and travels down the urethra to leave the body. A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria enter the urethra and travel backward up the urethra and into the bladder, which causes an infection. If left untreated, the bladder infection can then travel up the ureters into the kidneys and cause serious damage.

Frequent urination, a sense of urgency to urinate or burning during urination are common symptoms of a UTI. At-home urinary tract and bladder infection tests are similar to those used in the doctor's office and are considered accurate. The test detects nitrates and protein in the urine, both of which are signs of infection. "[The test] has to be followed up with your doctor, but it is helpful information," Dr. Lisa notes.

Taking acidophilus supplements and drinking cranberry extracts can help prevent the adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall and prevent infections.

Ear Infection Test
Ear infections occur more frequently in children because their Eustachian tubes -- the funnels that link the pharynx to the middle ear -- are shorter, narrower and more horizontal than in adults. This particular alignment can impede the flow of air and fluids through the tubes, and as the fluid pools, bacteria grow and cause infection.

Symptoms of a Middle Ear Infection in Children:
• Pulling or rubbing the ears
• Fever
• Fussiness or irritability
• Fluid leaking from the ear
• Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
• Trouble hearing

Ear infections are the number one reason for emergency room visits for children. Dr. Jim and Dr. Ordon demonstrate how an ear infection forms and how to determine if your child has one.

If children are plagued by frequent ear infections, physicians can surgically drain the Eustachian tubes to alleviate pressure. Learn more about treatments for chronic ear infections.

Breast Cancer Test

Although the cause of breast cancer is unknown, studies have shown that most cases develop in women who do not have a family history of the disease. Two known risk factors are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which, when mutated, can fail to suppress the growth of tumors. Doctors can perform a blood test to detect BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene in both men and women. 

"You really need counseling in conjunction with [this test]," Dr. Lisa says. "Because you [may] have a family history or other factors that put you at risk."

Learn more about breast cancer and the BRCA gene.

Learn more about HALO, the new breast pap test.

More At-Home Tests

Colon Cancer

Prostate Cancer 

Body Fat Test
An excellent way to monitor body fat is to measure body fat percentage, the amount of fat in the body in relation to the amount of muscle. The Omron Fat Loss Monitor is a small, hand-held device that sends a weak electrical current through the body to analyze the electric resistance of body tissue and calculates the percentage number in seconds.

Body Fat Percentage in Men:
6 to 13 percent = athletic
14 to 25 percent = normal
25 percent and above = obese

Body Fat Percentage in Women:
14 to 20 percent = athletic
21 to 31 percent = normal
32 percent and above = obese

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