There is plenty of contradictory information available about what constitutes a healthy level of cholesterol, and plenty of questions to consider. Are high levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol really “good”? How concerned should you be with “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and how significant is total cholesterol?

According to Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, the ratio of HDL or good cholesterol to the overall total cholesterol is a better predictor of heart disease than just measuring LDL alone. His studies have found that those people whose ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol is less than three, and if there is no evidence of inflammation, are at virtually no risk of heart attack, no matter what their LDL cholesterol level is.

For example:
Total cholesterol 200mg/dL
HDL cholesterol 67mg/dL
Ratio is 3.0

An ideal ratio to work towards, according to Ornish, would be 3.0 or less, which indicates a low risk of heart disease.

A ratio of 5.0 gives the person an average risk of heart disease.

A ratio of 9.5 will double the person’s risk of heart disease.

A ratio of >23 will triple the person’s risk of heart disease.

This formula in effect ignores LDL levels, however high they are. Total cholesterol can also be higher than the desirable 200mg/dL provided that the HDL cholesterol levels are correspondingly higher to give a ratio of 3.0 or less.

In similar studies, a US Government report has concluded that there are five important factors in assessing your risk of a heart attack in the next ten years. They are:

  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • Age
  • Smoking
  • Systolic Blood Pressure

However, some doctors feel that people with excessively high LDL may still be at substantial risk of heart disease and should work to lower those levels. Oxidized LDL is a known source of damaging free radicals in the body and for that reason alone, lower LDL levels are desirable.

Ways to Lower Cholesterol Safely and Naturally

If your total/HDL cholesterol ratio is higher than 3.0, you may want to consider some safe and natural ways to lower your cholesterol.

Eating a low fat diet should be a priority for anyone concerned with maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. Choose lean meats, fat-free dressings and swap butter for a spread that is low in unsaturated fats. Fried foods, high calorie snacks, cheese and ice cream should be occasional treats and can be replaced with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Exercise naturally lowers cholesterol levels. Find something you enjoy doing, such as dancing, walking, swimming or cycling and add it to your life 3-4 times per week. Taking certain natural supplements such as red rice extract, flax seed oil and beta-sitosterol all help lower cholesterol and support a healthy heart.

Once you have been practicing these new heart-healthy activities for 2-3 months, arrange a full blood test with your doctor and see the improved results on your overall cholesterol levels. You should be certainly closer to that desired ratio of 3.0 for total/HDL cholesterol levels.