What is Cholesterol Ratio?

Next to your total cholesterol level, cholesterol ratio is another measurement that can tell you more about whether you may need to take steps towards a healthier diet and lifestyle. It is the ratio of total cholesterol to the amount of High Density Lipoprotein (HDL, often called “good cholesterol”).

Why does your cholesterol ratio matter?

A waxy, fat-like substance, cholesterol is found in all cells, and has an important part to play in various vital processes in the body. However, high blood cholesterol is one of the risk factors in the development of heart disease. As heart disease has multiple risk factors, more than one may need to be improved to lower overall risk of it. It’s a good idea to find out your cholesterol level on a regular basis, alongside other steps.

Your total cholesterol level is only one part of the story, however. There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol – to maintain a healthy heart, try to keep ‘bad’ cholesterol at a lower, healthy level.
  • HDL (‘good’) cholesterol – HDL-cholesterol carries cholesterol back to the liver, where it is eliminated. While lowering LDL-cholesterol is key, it’s a good idea to maintain ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol at the recommended level.

Your cholesterol ratio reveals what amount of your total cholesterol is “good” HDL-cholesterol; so discovering yours is a good way to find out whether you may need to make changes into your diet and lifestyle.

How do you calculate cholesterol ratio?

A standard test to check your cholesterol level will normally take the form of a finger prick test, and the results can be available in minutes. To calculate cholesterol ratio, your healthcare professional will divide total cholesterol by HDL-cholesterol level.

What should my cholesterol ratio be?

The NHS recommends that cholesterol ratio should be below four-to-one.

Total cholesterol levels should be:

  • 5mmol/L or less for healthy adults
  • 4mmol/L or less for those at high risk

Of this LDL, or bad cholesterol, should be:

  • 3mmol/L or less for healthy adults
  • 2mmol/L or less for those at high risk

And HDL should be

  • 1 mmol/L or above

If your cholesterol ratio is not at the recommended level, consult your GP or pharmacist to work out your next steps. You may be required to take steps to alter your diet and lifestyle – you can find out more about how to lower cholesterol in our article here.

When to get your cholesterol tested

Cholesterol levels aren’t fixed – they vary daily – and can depend on a number of factors, like diet and lifestyle choices. It’s a good idea to get your cholesterol regularly tested. The NHS recommendations on whether you need to make cholesterol test a priority can be found here. Always consult your GP if you are in any doubt.

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