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Finding the Ideal Cholesterol Ratio

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that naturally occurs in human blood. It is formed in the liver or comes from the foods you eat. Cholesterol performs important functions in your body. It aids in tissue and hormone formation. It protects your nerves. It helps with digestion. In fact, cholesterol helps form the structure of every cell in your body.

You've probably heard your doctor talk about good and bad cholesterol. It's true we need cholesterol to maintain good health. But too much LDL -- or "bad" -- cholesterol and not enough HDL -- or "good" -- cholesterol may lead to heart disease and stroke. To help avoid these problems, you need to maintain the proper ratio between good and total cholesterol.

How do you know what that ratio is? Once you know your cholesterol numbers, you can work with your doctor to find the ideal cholesterol ratio for you. Then, by making simple lifestyle changes such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, and taking cholesterol medications such as statins, if necessary, you can work your way toward that ratio. By lowering your level of LDL cholesterol and increasing the level of HDL cholesterol, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

How Do Good and Bad Cholesterol Affect the Body?

High-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is the good cholesterol. The benefit of HDL lies in the fact that it carries bad cholesterol back to the liver. In doing so, it cleanses cholesterol from the bloodstream.

Low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is the bad cholesterol. The higher the level of LDL cholesterol, the greater your risk of a heart attack. When the level of LDL cholesterol goes up, excess cholesterol can build up and stick to the walls of your arteries. This causes damage. The buildup is called plaque, and the formation of plaque can cause arteries to harden and narrow. This hardening is called atherosclerosis. It's also known as hardening of the arteries. If a plaque becomes unstable, a blood clot can form, suddenly blocking an artery. This causes a heart attack or stroke.

 

What Is Total Cholesterol?

When your cholesterol is checked, you get a number for total cholesterol, one for the HDL level, and one for the LDL level. Your total cholesterol will be more than the sum of the HDL and LDL numbers.

Either a high HDL number or a high LDL number can make your total cholesterol number high. If it's high because of a high HDL number, your health is not necessarily in danger. However, if it's high because your LDL cholesterol level is high, it's important to talk with your doctor about your health .

 

What Is Cholesterol Ratio and What Should Yours Be?

To find your cholesterol ratio, you divide your total cholesterol number by your HDL, or good, cholesterol number. For example, if your total cholesterol number is 200 and your good cholesterol is 50, your total cholesterol ratio is 4:1.

Cholesterol ratio may be used as a monitoring tool by some health care specialists. However, the AHA suggests that doctors use total cholesterol numbers with patients rather than cholesterol ratio. That's because the total cholesterol number is considered a better tool for guiding the doctor in planning the best patient care and helping patients understand their health risks. Discuss with your doctor what the best numbers to monitor for you are.

WebMD Medical Reference

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Is Your Cholesterol Level Heart Healthy?
What is your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) level?

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or
Answer:
Desirable
0-199
Borderline
200-239
High
240+

Your level is currently

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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