The director of the City-County Health Department is warning that the ancient motto "let the buyer beware" is good advice when getting a blood cholesterol level test.

Dr. Harry Gibbons said the finger-prick test of blood cholesterol levels is accurate only if testers follow strict laboratory guidelines when drawing, handling and testing the blood sample."Those guidelines have to be followed or you can get an inaccurate test result, showing your cholesterol level either higher or lower than it actually is," Gibbons said. "And if a person with a high cholesterol level gets an inaccurate test result, there can be fatal consequences."

Portable analyzing equipment has made blood cholesterol tests inexpensive and results quickly available. But some testers lack proper training.

Gibbons said May has been designated Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Month and the health department is urging all county residents to "know their numbers" - that is, to have blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested.

The department is offering cholesterol and blood pressure testing for $6 at the following locations. No appointment is required.

-May 11. Copperview Multipurpose Center, 8446 S. 340 West, 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

-May 18. Valley Fair Mall, noon to 8 p.m.

-May 19. Valley Fair Mall, 10 a.m to 7 pm.

The department is also offering more extensive blood lipid analysis and a cholesterol seminar. Appointments are required. Call 468-2845 for information.

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(Additional information)

Questions anyone?

-Are the testers affiliated with a medical or health care agency?

-Have they been trained in correct procedures?

-Are they qualified to give proper counseling and recommendations?

-Can the accuracy of the machine be checked against a known control value?

-Can the machine be calibrated?