Cholesterol Health Issues

Reading Cholesterol Test Results to Check HDL LDL Ratios

There are several gauges that can be used to keep a tab on your cholesterol levels. Three ratios are commonly used for this purpose - total cholesterol / HDL ratio, LDL / HDL ratio, and HDL / LDL ratio. These ratios are a good way to know about the risk of developing atherosclerosis, heart disease and strokes which could potentially lead to death.

The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is obtained by simple division of the two. The higher the ratio, the worse it is for health. A higher ratio indicates that the level of the "good" cholesterol - HDL - in the total cholesterol is less. If the ratio is on the lower side it means that HDL is high.

Let's take an example. If your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL and HDL cholesterol is 50 mg/dL, the ratio is 4:1. Ratios of 4.5:1 and higher are not good; you are at a higher risk for heart disease. You should aim for ratios lesser than 3.5:1. The best ratio to keep would be 2:1.

Another ratio is the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol. The LDL/HDL ratio gives a better picture because it is a direct comparison of the "bad" LDL cholesterol and the "good" HDL cholesterol.

However the procedure to find out the LDL / HDL ratio usually costs more; therefore the ratio that is most commonly used is the total cholesterol / HDL ratio.

The use of these ratios, however, does not find favor with all. Some doctors say that the risk of developing heart disease cannot be pinned down to these ratios. Some prefer absolute numbers over ratios, as recommended by the American Heart Association. They say that absolute numbers make for a better treatment plan than ratios.

Absolute numbers for total cholesterol:

Less than 200: low risk of heart disease
200 - 250: moderate risk
More than 250: high risk

Absolute numbers for LDL cholesterol:

Less than 100: low risk of heart disease
100 - 130: moderate risk
More than 130: high risk

Absolute numbers for HDL cholesterol:

Less than 40: high risk of heart disease
40 - 60: moderate risk
More than 60: low risk

The ratios may not always tell the true story. It is always important to keep low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL irrespective of the ratio. Those already suffering from coronary artery disease need to maintain an LDL level of 80 or lesser.

Calculation of total cholesterol:

Look for the triglyceride level in your report and divide the number by 5. Add the numbers showing LDL and HDL levels. The sum of these three values gives you your total cholesterol.