Cholesterol Ratios

Some lipid panel results will include ratios, such as the total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio (total/HDL) and the low density lipoprotein/high density lipoprotein (LDL/HDL) ratio. These ratios may provide useful information on gauging a person's health. However, researchers and doctors are divided on the effectiveness of using these ratios for predicting the chances of developing heart disease.

An Introduction to Cholesterol Ratios

Cholesterol test (lipid panel) results may include several numbers, such as:
In addition to these numbers, the results from the cholesterol blood test may also show several ratios of cholesterol. These ratios may include:
  • Total/HDL ratio
  • LDL/HDL ratio
  • HDL/LDL ratio.

Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol

Total cholesterol to HDL ratios (or total/HDL ratios) are determined by dividing the HDL cholesterol into the total cholesterol. If a person has a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL and an HDL cholesterol of 40 mg/dL, his or her total/HDL ratio would be 5:1. The goal is to keep these ratios of cholesterol below 5:1, with the ideal being below 3.5:1.
Scientists and doctors are divided on the effectiveness of these ratios for predicting the chances of developing heart disease. At this point, the American Heart Association recommends using the absolute numbers for total blood cholesterol and HDL cholesterol instead of the total/HDL cholesterol ratio. They believe that the absolute cholesterol numbers are more useful to plan treatment than this cholesterol ratio.

LDL/HDL Cholesterol

Another ratio that certain labs determine is the LDL to HDL ratio. These cholesterol ratios are sometimes used to help predict the chances of developing heart disease. Such ratios compare levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) to good cholesterol (HDL). For LDL/HDL ratios, the goal is to keep it below 3.5:1, with the ideal being under 2.5:1.
However, similar to the total/HDL ratio, the medical community is divided on whether the LDL/HDL ratio is better than absolute total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol levels in predicting a person's risk for heart disease. For treatment of high cholesterol, using the absolute numbers for LDL and HDL is recommended.
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