Monday, October 19, 2020

Cholesterol Numbers: How to Make Sense of It!


This test separately identifies various types of cholesterol, including triglyceride levels (TG), high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, low density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, and also, TC, which refers to one’s total cholesterol count.

Using the lipoprotein profile, cholesterol ratio is measured after fasting for a period of 10 to 12 hours. While every person needs some of this fatty substance that’s naturally produced by the body, ratios that are over the normal limits may increase your risk of acquiring serious health conditions, including heart disease.

Knowing your cholesterol numbers are important for gauging your overall health, and every adult over the age of 20 should have their levels checked at least every five years, unless recommended to do so more often by their doctor.

The Importance of Your Cholesterol Numbers

Knowing your exact numbers are extremely important as each of them identify a different type of cholesterol, and then details each of those amounts.

If you haven’t had a complete lipoprotein profile done recently, at least learning the total or HDL cholesterol will help you to better understand how much is currently in your blood, and whether or not you may be within normal limits, or need to take action to correct the problem. Generally, if your total cholesterol number is over 200 mg/dl, and your HDL is under 40 mg/dl, you may want to contact your doctor for a more in depth lipoprotein profile.

Knowing your total cholesterol is useful for giving doctors a better idea as to whether or not one is at an elevated risk of developing certain health conditions, such as heart disease, in the near future. Knowing these numbers also help patients themselves to better understand their risks of whether they’ll acquire a serious disease. For instance, a TC or total cholesterol level of under 200 mg/dl is the most desirable reading, while anything above 240 is considered to be in the danger zone and may increase health risks. To be considered borderline, total cholesterol must be with the 201 to 239 mg/dl range.

For LDL or low density lipoprotein cholesterol, numbers are categorized into five different sections which are referred to as either optimal, which is a reading of under 100 mg/dl, near optimal, which is 101 to 129 mg/dl, above optimal at 130 to 159 mg/dl, borderline high at 160 to 189 mg/dl, and the last section, high, or very high at over 190 mg/dl.

Risk Factors and Cholesterol Numbers

There are several factors and circumstances that may have an affect on one’s cholesterol, which is why the numeric system is used to more accurately measure the varying levels. Some of these risk factors include one’s age and gender, their race, hereditary, weight, level of physical activity, and what type of diet they eat.

While age, gender, race, and hereditary are all factors we cannot control, the others are easily manageable with implementing certain lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier or exercising more. Other risks such as tobacco smoke or excessive alcohol consumption may also increase one’s cholesterol, and also their risk for heart disease.

For some females past menopause, their cholesterol levels may continue to rise as they age, which may actually be a hereditary condition. In these cases, following a diet low in fat while getting plenty of exercise will help to minimize the risks of cholesterol-related illnesses.

Learn About Cholesterol Ratios

When having their cholesterol tested, most people are usually given results that simply provide them with their total blood cholesterol levels, but don’t break down those results even more by outlining the different types of cholesterol ratios in relationship to one another. For the most accurate assessment of your health, you should also be given your LDL, HDL, and triglyceride levels as well the cholesterol ratios for the best idea as to how healthy your heart may be, or if there’s an excess of fat clogging its arteries.

In most cases, cholesterol ratios are determined and defined as one’s total blood cholesterol level divided by their HDL level. As of late, more scientists and physicians are also figuring cholesterol ratios by dividing LDL levels by HDL levels to come to an average, acceptable number. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 5:1 is considered to be the optimal cholesterol ratio in terms of total blood cholesterol compared to HDL, and recommend this number always be below this level.

How to Calculate Cholesterol Ratios

Cholesterol ratios are also often referred to as one’s cardiac risk ratio, and anything over 7:1 is considered to be potentially dangerous. To find your cholesterol ratio, divide the number of your total cholesterol (TC) level by your HDL. For example, if your TC was 200 mg/dl and your HDL was 50 mg/dl, your ratio would be 4:1. Optimally, this number should be between 3:1 and 5:1 for the best health.

The higher the difference in the ratio of cholesterol levels indicates a higher risk for heart disease, while the lower the ratio, of course the lower the risk will be. A high level of HDL cholesterol and a lower total cholesterol number will work to balance each other out, lowering the overall ratio value.

Blood Cholesterol Ratio and Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Total blood cholesterol compared to the ratio of HDL cholesterol, as well as HDL compared to LDL cholesterol ratios are both equally important for determining the risks that one will develop conditions such as stroke, heart attack, heart disease, and other similar illnesses. For instance, an LDL to HDL ratio under 2:5 is acceptable, but if that number goes over 3:5, the risks of health complications increases.

Alternately, TC to HDL cholesterol ratios are useful for determining one’s risk for developing atherosclerosis, with the best ratio being lower than 4:1. Some doctors also recommend using LDL to HDL cholesterol ratios for better assessing the chance for cardiovascular problems.

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on

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