Cholesterol is found in every cell in your body. This waxy substance helps with a lot of biological functions like hormone production and helping cells create membranes. But cholesterol can also be a case of too much of a good thing.
There are actually two forms of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. HDL is “good” cholesterol that travels from other parts of the body back to the liver to be removed from the body. High levels of HDL are connected with lower risk of heart disease. LDL, on the other hand, is considered “bad” because it builds up in arteries creating plaque that can increase the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Your cholesterol ratio is a measurement of your total cholesterol that’s measured in milligrams per deciliter. It includes LDL and HDL. We’ve discussed how to calculate cholesterol HDL ratio by dividing the total cholesterol by HDL, but after the calculation is made the results need to be interpreted.
In order to do that you’ll need to have a firm understanding of what’s considered a good cholesterol ratio. It’s also a good idea to know what’s thought to be a bad cholesterol ratio and what factors influence cholesterol ratio the most.
What is Considered a Good Cholesterol Ratio?
Cholesterol ratio will look at the amount of HDL compared to the total cholesterol. You want the HDL to be as high as possible, which means a good ratio is low. The American Heart Association has determined that an ideal cholesterol ratio is 3.5 or less. However, it’s worth noting that doctors consider anything under 4 to be a good cholesterol ratio, and ratios between 4-5 are acceptable.
A normal HDL level will be between 40-59 mg/dL. Anything higher than that is great. There’s no optimal level of LDL. The basic guideline is that the lower LDL is the better. Ideally, you want LDL cholesterol to be at or below 100 mg/dL.
What is Considered a Bad Cholesterol Ratio?
Doctors are a bit divided on what is considered a bad cholesterol ratio. Everyone agrees that 3.5 or less is very good. However, in recent years some doctors have suggested the level that’s deemed “bad” should be higher.
At one time, a cholesterol ratio higher than 4 was a bad sign. Today, organizations like the Texas Heart Institute recognize 4.5 as the cholesterol ratio threshold. Still, there are physicians that believe a ratio of 5 or less should be considered normal.
When you look at each type of cholesterol individually, what’s considered bad is quite different. A lower HDL number below the norm of 40-59 mg/dL is bad, while LDL that’s higher than 100 mg/dL isn’t good.
What Influences Cholesterol Ratio the Most
Now that you know what is considered a good cholesterol ratio and what is a bad cholesterol ratio, it’s time to take a look at what influences your ratio and factors that can cause high cholesterol.
A person’s sex is going to have a significant impact on the cholesterol ratio. In general, women have higher levels of HDL in their system. That is why the ideal cholesterol ratio is lower and the HDL level is higher for women than men. Ideally, women should have an HDL level that’s 50 mg/dL or higher. Men should have an HDL level of 40 mg/dL or higher. The recommendation is that women have a cholesterol ratio of 4 or less, and the cholesterol ratio for men should be 5 or less.
Age is going to be a factor in cholesterol calculations. With time, cholesterol levels get higher. Men are affected more by age than women, until a woman goes through menopause. At that point the risk of high cholesterol increases with age. If there’s a family history of high cholesterol, then you should be tracking cholesterol ratio from a very early age. Some medical experts recommend testing as young as two years old.
What you eat impacts your cholesterol levels in significant ways. In particular, unfiltered coffee, refined carbohydrates and alcohol can increase LDL levels and cholesterol ratio. To lower cholesterol with diet, focus on consuming healthy fats, soluble fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, fruits and vegetables while limiting food that’s high in cholesterol and salt.
People who exercise regularly tend to have better cholesterol ratios. Studies have shown that exercise can lower a person’s LDL level. The general recommendation is for adults to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate physical activity.
Smoking is a lifestyle choice that has a good chance of increasing LDL cholesterol and lowering HDL cholesterol. It’s a double whammy that is particularly detrimental. Once you cease smoking cholesterol levels should improve immediately and over the long-term.
Underlying Health Conditions
It’s possible that an underlying health condition is contributing to high cholesterol levels. Two conditions that are known to increase cholesterol ratio are diabetes and high blood pressure.
Test your cholesterol profile at home! Choose Health provides an easy and convenient way to get your cholesterol ratio and analyze the individual metrics that tell you even more about your wellbeing. It’s an invaluable benchmark for improving your health!