When comparing "good cholesterol" (HDL) to "bad cholesterol" (LDL), there is a ratio that may be used. When using it, the goal is to keep the ratio of HDL/LDL above 0.3, with the ideal being above 0.4. The medical community is divided on the effectiveness of using the ratio to predict the chances of developing heart disease. At this time, it is generally believed that the absolute cholesterol numbers are more useful when planning treatment than using the ratio.
An Introduction to the HDL/LDL Ratio
When a person receives his or her cholesterol test (lipid panel) results, several numbers may be listed (total cholesterol, LDL, HDL) along with several cholesterol ratios. One of these ratios may be the ratio of HDL/LDL.
Understanding the Ratio
High density lipoprotein (or HDL for short) is also known as "good cholesterol." It picks up extra cholesterol in the blood and returns it to the liver. Low density lipoprotein (or LDL) is also known as "bad cholesterol." It is the main transporter of cholesterol in the body. But too much LDL over many years can result in atherosclerosis (the narrowing and hardening of arteries) and lead to heart disease or a heart attack.
The ratio of HDL/LDL looks at the ratio of good cholesterol (HDL) to bad cholesterol (LDL). The ratio is determined by dividing the LDL cholesterol into the HDL cholesterol. For example, if a person has an HDL cholesterol of 50 mg/dL and an LDL cholesterol of 150 mg/dL, the HDL/LDL ratio would be 0.33. The goal is to keep the ratio above 0.3, with the ideal HDL/LDL ratio being above 0.4.
Cholesterol research scientists and doctors are divided on the effectiveness of using the ratio of HDL/LDL to predict the chances of developing heart disease. At this point, it is recommended that healthcare providers use the absolute numbers for HDL and LDL instead to determine if you have "healthy cholesterol." It is believed that the absolute cholesterol numbers are more useful to plan treatment than the HDL/LDL ratio or any other cholesterol ratio.
(Click High Cholesterol Risk to learn about your risk for heart disease or click Cholesterol Numbers to see if your cholesterol level is healthy.)