Cholesterol ratios refer to the balance between the two different kinds of cholesterol, which are called high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein, explains WebMD. High-density lipoprotein, or HDL cholesterol, is considered the good cholesterol because it carries low-density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, back to the liver.
A cholesterol ratio is the figure that results from dividing a total cholesterol number by an HDL amount, states WebMD. The number for total cholesterol will always be higher than the sum of the HDL and the LDL numbers. For example, a total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL measurement of 50 gives a cholesterol ratio of 4-to-1. The American Heart Association recommends using total cholesterol measurements instead of cholesterol ratio because it's a better tool for understanding health risks and planning patient care.
Too much LDL and not enough HDL can cause heart disease, strokes and heart attacks, notes WebMD. High levels of LDL lead to an accumulation of cholesterol, or plaque, in the arteries, and may eventually cause a blood clot that blocks an artery. Regular aerobic exercise helps increase HDL levels and decrease LDL levels. Eating foods low in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat helps reduce LDL levels. Medications called statins help to increase HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.