blood cholesterol

Which Cholesterol is Good? LDL or HDL? Understand Levels and Ratios

High cholesterol is a regular phrase in the present world. People are either already arrested in the clutches of the high cholesterol levels or are beginning to control their diet, fearing it. And why not? High cholesterol is not a mere figure on the lab reports. It’s also an indication that your body is ready to face some fatal diseases soon. It’s a huge red flag that nobody wants to see.

Having said that, are we aware that cholesterol is also good and bad? Yes, you needn’t be worried about all the high figures of cholesterol. Some of these high figures may be beneficial to your body. However, low cholesterol isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Our article shall shed some light on good and bad cholesterol. We shall help you understand adequate cholesterol levels and how to keep them under control. Let’s begin-

Types of Cholesterol – Low-Density Lipoprotein and High-Density Lipoprotein

There are fundamentally two types of cholesterol in the body –

  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) OR “Good” Cholesterol
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) OR “Bad” Cholesterol

Both the cholesterol types are needed in the body but at appropriate levels. Let us understand a bit in detail about the types of cholesterol and what makes one type a hero while the other one a villain.

Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL Cholesterol is called bad cholesterol. The primary reason for it being a villain is that: Low-Density Cholesterol tends to accumulate in the inner lining of the blood vessels and stiffen the arteries. This paves the way for fatal diseases such as Atherosclerosis and Arteriosclerosis. Such a condition is also a precursor for coronary artery blockage, heart attacks, and strokes.

High Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is referred to as good cholesterol since it helps dispose of the Low-Density Cholesterol from the liver. HDL helps convert Low-Density Cholesterol to waste materials and their disposal from the body, thus reducing the levels of bad cholesterol. If you have higher levels of High-Density Cholesterol in the body, it shall lessen the chances of strokes and heart attacks. It carries approximately 25% to 33% of the circulating cholesterol in the body to the liver and moves the LDL out of the liver to prevent clogging.

Measuring the Cholesterol Levels

The standard unit for measuring cholesterol is milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). The following are considered healthy standards of cholesterol

  • The total cholesterol level of the blood should always be below 200 mg/dl
  • The Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) content of the blood should be less than 100 mg/dl
  • The High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) content of the blood should be less than 40 mg /dl

Though there are pre-determined ideal cholesterol levels, these may vary. It is better to have a detailed consultation with a medical practitioner in your area to know about the latest data regarding normal cholesterol levels. Apart from the contribution of HDL and LDL, another factor determines the total cholesterol level of the blood, which is triglyceride amount. 20 percent of the triglyceride (fat) present in the body contributes to the total cholesterol reserve.

The clinical procedures to measure the total cholesterol level of the body always aim to assess the total cholesterol level and the cholesterol ratio. These tests are always performed with the blood sample before the person takes the breakfast as food can always fluctuate the cholesterol levels.

Causes for high levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein in the Body

  • Inactivity
  • Smoking
  • High quantity of saturated fat consumption
  • Obesity
  • Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, malfunctioning liver or kidneys
  • Menopause
  • Genetics: The family may have a history of Hypercholesterolemia

Non-HDL Method of Measuring the Cholesterol Level

In the normal process of calculating the Cholesterol Ratio, HDL is taken into consideration for measurement. There is a Non-HDL method of cholesterol measurement as well. In this method, the HDL cholesterol is subtracted from the Total Cholesterol levels. Many doctors prefer this measurement method because, once you subtract the HDL from the total cholesterol level, what remains leftover is a combination of LDL and VLDL.

In the other methods, VLDL or Very Low-Density Lipoprotein is not taken into account. Very Low-Density Lipoproteins, just like Low-Density Lipoproteins, are harmful to the body and build up in the blood vessels and lead to diseases like arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. When measuring cholesterol in this way, a standard is to be followed. The non-HDL cholesterol level of the blood should be less than 130 mg/dL. Higher values could be indicative of risk.

Cholesterol Ratio

Apart from standard values, a term called Cholesterol Ratio is equally applicable to quantify the cholesterol levels in the body. The High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) to Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) ratio in the body. This ratio is also significant in determining whether the person is consuming the right type of food or not. Dieticians also look at the patient’s cholesterol level while suggesting a change in diet plan. To calculate the cholesterol ratio, all you have to do is divide the body’s total cholesterol by the High-Density Lipoprotein number.

Eg: The total Cholesterol level of a person is 170 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood, and HDL is 85 mg/dL. Therefore your cholesterol ratio is 2.

According to Germany’s Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, the optimal high-density lipoprotein level for women is above 50 mg/dL. For men, it is above 40 mg/dL. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention defines that the optimal level of Low-Density Lipoprotein should be under 100 mg/dL

The ideal or standard High-Density Lipoprotein: Low-Density ratio should be 4. It could be in the range of 3.5 to 5. It can vary according to gender and various other factors.

The Difference in Cholesterol Ratio Based on Gender

As already discussed, the cholesterol ratio should be below 4-5. But the cholesterol ratio and also the normal standards for cholesterol in the blood vary among men and women. Women usually possess a high HDL level than men. In women, the HDL level is generally close to 50 mg/dL. In men, it is close to 40 mg/dL. In women, the cholesterol ratio is also significantly high, which is always 4 to 5. Whereas in Men, the ratio is below 4.

Cholesterol is a necessity for the body. There are various crucial functions in the body. The most important part is that our body biosynthesizes cholesterol. Even if we do not take plenty of cholesterol externally from food sources, our liver can naturally produce ample cholesterol to take care of the body’s functions.

Get Your Cholesterol Ratio on Track

After gathering so much information about the standards and ratios, it is time we speak about improving the ratio. If you look at mathematics, there are two ways to diminish the total value of a ratio. Either reduce the numerator or increase the denominator. In this case, to decrease the total value of the cholesterol ratio, either lower the total cholesterol level of the body or increase the total High-Density Lipoprotein of the body. This is a bit more technical now, let us look at the practical ways of how we can achieve this

Ways to reduce Cholesterol ratio, aka eliminate the Bad Cholesterol itself

Do not Consume Unhealthy Fats

Healthy and Unhealthy Fats have a significant contribution to the total cholesterol level of the body and also to our well-being. Unhealthy fats generally refer to Trans fat and Saturated Fat. Both these kinds of Fat are found primarily in packaged food.

Almost all processed foods like bread, chips, burgers, tacos, and wafers contain Trans fat. Trans fat and saturated fat are sources of Low-Density Lipoprotein in the body. To lower LDL levels in the body, lower the consumption of packaged food.

Say No to Smoking

If smoking has yet not become a compulsion for you, it is high time you quit this devil. Smoking cigarettes drastically enhances the LDL level of the body.

Once you fall prey to chain smoking, it becomes difficult to eradicate this habit. It becomes a vicious loop that is difficult to leave. Smoking is notorious for increasing the LDL level and decreasing the HDL level in the blood.


Aerobic exercises at a moderate pace are highly effective in keeping the blood cholesterol level under control. Such exercises are often termed Cardio exercises, and examples are Running, Walking, Kickboxing, Cycling, Swimming, Jumping, and so on.

A regularly scheduled workout routine of only 15 minutes can help you become fit and active and keep a check on your blood cholesterol level of the body.

Lose Weight

A slight increase in the ideal weight can be the reason for high cholesterol levels. Keeping track of calorie intake and eating mindfully can help you eliminate the chances of increased weight and cholesterol.

Climbing the stairs instead of taking an elevator or walking instead of taking a cab can be small changes that help in decreasing weight. Many such lifestyle changes can help you track your weight and reduce the chances of high cholesterol.

Track the alcohol intake

Like smoking, alcohol can also be a factor in increasing cholesterol levels. However, it has also been said that alcohol consumption can help improve HDL levels. Yet the benefits do not outdo the detriments of alcohol consumption.

Hence, doctors advise either eliminating alcohol or at least maintaining moderate intake. 1 or 2 drinks a day for healthy adults is the suggested alcohol consumption.


The cholesterol level of the blood is an extremely important indicator of your heart health. Cholesterol levels act as one of the forefront flags to determine the possibilities of any forthcoming heart disease or possibility for diseases like atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis. People who have a high total blood cholesterol level and a low HDL level are at even greater risks. For such people, LDL accumulation could bring around fatal consequences. It is always recommended to keep the Cholesterol ratio under control and opt for a correct mix of a healthy diet, ample sleep, and regular exercise to keep your cholesterol level at the desirable level.