Not all cholesterol increases your risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease– your risk is determined by the balance of various types. But how can you assess this balance?
Different Cholesterols Explained
The 2 main types of cholesterol in your body are:
- LDL: LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein. It is considered the “bad” cholesterol, aka less helpful type of cholesterol because it can transport cholesterol to the walls of arteries, forming clogging plaques that put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.
- HDL: HDL stands for high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol. HDL is the main type of helpful cholesterol. HDL cholesterol acts as a “scavenger” of excess cholesterol, bringing extra cholesterol from arteries and the body back to the liver to be metabolized. This means that, generally, higher levels of HDL cholesterol are actually better.
Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio Explained
When HDL and LDL are added to other types of cholesterols, you get your overall Total Cholesterol –this is the cholesterol number that is commonly referred to when your hear your “cholesterol” level. You can figure out what your “good” and “bad” cholesterol levels are with a simple lipid panel blood test. (If you did your test through WellnessFX, you’ll receive them in 3-5 days and be alerted via email when they’re ready for viewing in your secure profile).
As mentioned, your body has a balance of HDL and LDL. This means that after identifying your Total Cholesterol and HDL and LDL, you’ll want to identify your Total Cholesterol/HDL Cholesterol ratio, a score that assesses what portion of all of your cholesterol is healthy and unhealthy cholesterol. Here are four WellnessFX charts that illustrate what this looks like:
Why It’s Important
A higher ratio means more cholesterol is unhealthy artery-clogging LDL cholesterol, while a lower ratio means more is your good HDL cholesterol. By lowering your ratio, you can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
A simple way to understand if you have the proper amount of good cholesterol, the ideal Total Cholesterol to HDL Cholesterol ratio is less than 3.5:1. If your ratio is greater than 5:1, this is considered very high-risk. For example, if your Total Cholesterol was 215 and your HDL is 37, then your ratio is 215/37=5.8.
4 Suggestions of How to Improve Your Ratio
There are activities that increase your HDL and/or reduce LDL to improve this ratio. Certain things tend to impact both which means you’ll get the most bang for your buck.
- Increase intake of unsaturated fats, such as those found in fish, avocado, olive oil, and nuts. If you’re still on the fence about fats in general, check out “How Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat.”
- Increase activity, especially those which exercise different types of muscles. If you need help fitting in time to be active, read this post.
- Don’t smoke.
- Learn more by watching this video about Cholesterol.
How WellnessFX Can Help
The biomarkers and calculations discussed here can be found in all of our main diagnostic panels. If you want to read a bit more on the topic, check out The 4 Main Tests for Determining Heart Disease.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, improve your fitness performance, or just deciding to take control of your overall health, having the data puts you in the driver’s seat. Even our most basic package includes more tests than the typical checkup.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.