Cholesterol Tests

Cholesterol Ratio

Physicians may find it easy to express your cholesterol as a ratio, but you should ask for the numbers behind the ratio.

A cholesterol ratio tells you how much good and bad cholesterol you have. Many patients find it hard to keep the various fractions of cholesterol straight in their minds. LDL values get easily confused with HDL values. For this reason, many physicians find it easier to provide their patients with a simple ratio of total blood cholesterol to HDL or of LDL to HDL.

These ratios are strong predictors of coronary heart disease. In the Framingham Heart study, for instance, the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL and the ratio of LDL to HDL were found to have the strongest associations with coronary heart disease. The researchers suggested that a total-cholesterol-to-HDL ratio greater than six and an LDL-to-HDL ratio greater than four indicated a high risk for coronary heart disease.

Although these ratios are simple ways of summarizing a good deal of confusing data, the specific values that make up the ratios need to be looked at individually. The fractions that make up the ratio give you important information that is lost if they are not considered separately.

Indeed, the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) does not use ratios in its recommendations specifically because it considers the fractions to be independent risk factors for coronary heart disease. Therefore, you need to ask for the individual values if they are not provided to you.

There are several tests that you should be aware of even though they typically are not recommended. One such test, the advanced lipid test, is explained on the next page.

For more information on cholesterol, see:

  • Cholesterol Levels: We all know there's "good" and "bad" cholesterol. Find out why you need more of one kind of cholesterol and less of the other.
  • Causes of High Cholesterol: Diet and DNA are the main causes of high cholesterol. Learn why the numbers might be high in your case.
  • Consequences of High Cholesterol: High cholesterol can lead to a heart attack. Learn more  about high cholesterol and heart attack and what other conditions high cholesterol contributes to.
  • How to Lower Cholesterol: Like many conditions, eating right and exercising helps control cholesterol. Learn what that means for you.
  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is essential to the body. Find out why we need it and how much is too much.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.