Cholesterol and its uses

Cholesterol is a lipid (fat) that your body needs in order to function correctly. It is produced by your liver, and transported in your blood. Lipids do not dissolve in water, meaning cholesterol doesn’t dissolve in your blood. As well as being produced in your body, you can also take in cholesterol by consuming various animal based foods, considering most animal organisms also produce cholesterol.

The reason you need cholesterol in your body, is because it is important for your cell membranes. Cholesterol regulates what can enter and leave your cells. As well as that, it is also needed to produce certain hormones and vitamin D. The liver, which is often called the laboratory of the human body, produces cholesterol. It produces enough for your body to function, so all the cholesterol you take in through animal-based foods is excess.

HDL, LDL, and triglycerides

Cholesterol travels through your blood in lipoproteins. These lipoproteins can have high density (HDL), and low density (LDL).

High denisty lipoproteins (HDL) are often called “the good cholesterol” because they take the low density lipoproteins back to the liver, where they dissolve. They are not perfect, however, and they can’t destroy all the low density lipoproteins.

Low density lipoproteins (LDL) are often called “the bad cholesterol“, because they can build plaque in the walls of your arteries, causing atherosclerosis. The arteries are blood vessels that are tasked to deliver blood that is rich in oxygen, to all of your organs. So, there are arteries that deliver blood to your brain, lungs, intestines and even your heart. If the flow of blood in these arteries is interrupted, those organs are going to malfunction, and even die. This is known as an infarction.

You might be wondering how these low density lipoproteins can clog up your arteries. Since the arteries need to deliver blood from the heart to your entire body, their structure is much more complex than of your veins. Arteries have 3 layers: the intima, the media and the adventitia. The bad cholesterol can build up between these layers and make the artery narrower, thus not allowing enough blood to flow to that certain organ. If the level of high density lipoproteins (HDL) is low, they are not going to carry away the low density lipoproteins (LDL), and as a result, your health is at an even higher risk, and you have a higher chance of getting a heart disease.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in your body. Essentially, they serve as a reserve of energy. When you eat something, the calories your body doesn’t need right away are converted into triglycerides. They are later converted back into energy when you need it. They are not a type of cholesterol, however, since they also travel through your blood, if your triglycerides are high, and your HDL is low, you are at an increased risk of having an infarction, so you need to keep track of them as well.

Total cholesterol

The total cholesterol is, as the name suggest, the total amount of cholesterol in your body, or the sum of your lipoproteins, HDL and LDL, as well as 20% of your triglycerides. It is measured by using a blood test, called a lipoprotein “a” test. A small sample of blood is drawn from one of your veins, and it is then analyzed for HDL and LDL. It is recommended that every person above 12 years of age should check their cholesterol levels every five years, especially if they have a heart disease or a family history of heart diseases. According to the National Institutes of Health, the ideal total cholesterol level for an adult is 200 mg/dl. Hypercholesterolemia does not have any symptoms, so the only way to discover it is through a blood test.

Most medical practitioners will instruct you to fast (not eat or drink) for 9-12 hours before you get your blood drawn, for more accurate results. There are no important risks to doing this test, if everything is done correctly. Perhaps slight pain or bruising on the spot of the puncture, which will go away quickly.

If you have a high amount of cholesterol in your blood, the condition is called hypercholesterolemia, and if you have a low amount of cholesterol in your blood, the condition is called hypocholesterolemia. Low cholesterol levels are rare, but still possible, and they are usually a result of some other underlying condition.

What causes high cholesterol and how to lower your cholesterol?

There are a few important factors that lead to high cholesterol levels in one’s blood. The first one is, obviously, eating a lot of fatty foods. As we said, cholesterol is a type of fat, so the more you consume fatty foods, the higher your low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels will be, and the high density lipoproteins (HDL) will not be able to carry enough of them back to the liver, thus increasing the risk of heart disease. This, of course, can be countered by physical activity and exercise.

Smoking, consuming alcohol and your genetics also play a big role. So, if you want to be safe, take a look at your family disease history. If heart diseases are common throughout your family history, you might want to consult a medical expert so he can help you decrease the risk of you getting a heart disease. The medical expert can also give you some guidelines on how to exercise more, avoid alcohol and smoking, and maybe even take up a diet to reduce the amount of bad cholesterol in your blood.

What is cholesterol ratio?

Your cholesterol ratio is calculated by dividing your total cholesterol by the amount of high density lipoproteins (HDL) in your blood. It is recommended that your cholesterol ratio stays under 5, with the ideal value being 3.5. Essentially, as your cholesterol ratio increases, so does the risk of you getting a heart disease.

Why is this important? Well, just like with everything in our body, there are multiple factors that work against one another. In this case, it is the HDL and LDL that work antagonistically, and there needs to be a good ratio between the two, otherwise your health is at risk. Keep in mind that, even though high density lipoproteins (HDL) are the “good cholesterol”, their levels also shouldn’t be too high, as that could also lead to some problems.

How to calculate cholesterol ratio?

The formula for calculating your cholesterol ratio is:

\large CR = \frac {TC}{HDL}

So, if your total cholesterol is 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dl), and your high density lipoproteins (HDL) values are 90 mg/dl, your cholesterol ratio would be:

\large CR = \frac {200 \frac {mg}{dl}}{90 \frac {mg}{dl}} \large CR = 2.22 \bar {2} \frac {mg}{dl}

Ideal cholesterol ratio

The ideal cholesterol ratio is 3.5, but as long as you keep yours between 1.5 and 5, you are going to be safe. Achieving this ideal ratio is of course not easy, but considering the risks of hypercholesterolemia, it is worth it. Increasing the amount of high density lipoproteins (HDL), and reducing the amount of low density lipoproteins (LDL) in your blood, means improving your health, and reducing the risk of a heart infarction.

Cholesterol ratio range chart

It is important to keep track of all your cholesterol values, but when speaking about your cholesterol ratio, the general idea would be:

FAQ

What is a good cholesterol ratio?

A good cholesterol ratio is anywhere between 5 and 1.5.

Is a 2.5 cholesterol ratio good?

Yes, it is.