Cholesterol plays a major role in the normal functioning of the bodily activities. Chemically, it is a lipid-like substance, formed mostly by the liver cells. Being a water-repellent metabolite, it is transported to the bloodstream with the help of lipoproteins (compound containing lipids and proteins). Its level in the body is measured by conducting a blood test.

Cholesterol is an integral part of the cell membranes, thus it is present in all the body cells and tissues. It is also essential for production of steroid hormones, bile juice, and vitamins. Understanding its functions and how hypercholesterolemia affects the body systems, would help in minimizing the risks factors for heart problems and cardiovascular diseases.

High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL)

These are responsible for transporting unused cholesterol from the blood to the liver. As per medical studies, about 30 percent of blood cholesterol is transported by high-density lipoproteins in a normal healthy person. The returned cholesterol in the liver is either re-utilized or excreted from the body, thus minimizing the complication of its accumulation in the blood vessels. Hence, high-density lipoproteins are also referred to as good cholesterol. An individual having this level below 40 mg/dL is at a high risk of developing heart diseases.

Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)

These are major transporting systems for carrying cholesterol from the liver organ to the bloodstream. Presence of high levels of LDL for a prolonged period leads to narrowing of the arteries and/or formation of plaques in the lining of blood vessels, which in turn increases the risk for cardiovascular and heart-related diseases. This is the reason that low-density lipoproteins are also known a bad cholesterol. The ideal level is claimed to be below 100 mg/dL.

The Ratio: HDL/LDL

While analyzing the report of a cholesterol test, one may come across various numbers, apart from its levels such as high-density lipoproteins, low-density lipoproteins, and their ratio range. The ratio calculation is obtained by dividing the concentration of good cholesterol by the amount of bad cholesterol, in mg/dL (milligram per deciliter). The ideal ratio is believed to be above 0.4. Nevertheless, a value higher than 0.3 is considered as normal and healthy or to be within the normal levels.

Furthermore, the HDL and LDL ratio can be calculated either wise. In brief, one can estimate this ratio instead of determining the usual HDL to LDL ratio. In such a case, the ideal value is 2.5:1, however, the reading below 3.5:1 is considered to be normal and healthy. The most reliable value that can be used to determine health complications is debatable. Though total cholesterol/HDL is more accurate than this ratio, the latter is easier and more affordable. Most health experts recommend using the absolute reading of HDL and LDL for any health implications.

In case, there are suspected signs of heart diseases, the physician may prescribe fasting and non-fasting blood tests to determine the accurate readings of high-density and low density lipoproteins, and their ratio. Based on the ratio, risk factors are examined by the concerned physician, after which effective medications and lifestyle changes are recommended so as to maintain the cholesterol level within a healthy range.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.