What A Non-HDL Cholesterol Reading Is And How It’s Measured


What is non-HDL cholesterol, and where does it fit into the scheme of things as far as our cholesterol levels are concerned? We know that it’s in our best interest to do those activities or eat those foods that will reduce our levels of LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol in our blood, to within a certain range, and up the levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol. Most of us have never been told about our non-HDL cholesterol levels, nor for that matter most of us have never even heard the term before.

It’s A Measurement


Non-HDL is not a type of cholesterol. It is not a cholesterol that is either high-density or low-density, and it is not a type of cholesterol that has zero density. It is a measurement that many physicians are beginning to take note of when assessing a patient’s cholesterol levels in terms of the risk those levels may be posing to a patient’s well-being, especially the in terms of that patient’s cardiovascular  health.


We’re familiar with LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol readings. We may have been lead to believe, or simply assumed, that our total cholesterol reading is simply the sum of our LDL and HDL readings. If your LDL level is 150 and your HDL level is 30, shouldn’t your total cholesterol reading be 180?  It’s not. There’s one other factor that goes into determining your total cholesterol level, and that factor has to do with the amount of triglycerides in your blood. The triglycerides in your bloodstream are used to store calories. If your triglyceride levels are too high, which can be the case if you are consuming too many foods that are high in starch, it can have a negative affect on your cardiovascular system. In other words, high triglyceride readings, like high LDL readings, mean you are at a higher risk of having heart disease or some other cardiovascular problem.

Calculating The Measurement


When your total cholesterol level is measured or calculated, it is done by adding your LDL level to your HDL level, and then adding 20%, or one-fifth, of your triglyceride level reading. Your non-HDL reading then, is your total cholesterol reading minus your HDL reading. This leaves you with your LDL level plus something else, that something else being 20% of your triglyceride level.


The non-HDL reading is important because both of the two components it consists of are harmful if the levels are too high. An overly simplistic view could be that if both the LDL and triglyceride levels are too high, bad becomes twice as bad, but this isn’t really the case. Still, a low non-HDL reading is something you would much rather see than a high non-HDL reading.

How The Measurement Is Used


What do physicians and clinicians do with these non-HDL readings? They simply use them as target measurements in treating patients who have, or are at a risk of having heart disease. The LDL cholesterol readings are still of primary importance, as the target always is having them within a low range which signifies that the risk of heart or circulatory problems is within acceptable limits. However, the LDL readings alone don’t take into account the triglyceride levels, which are also important. The non-HDL reading takes these levels into account, and this measurement is used as what is called a secondary target level.


The non-HDL cholesterol reading then is simply a tool, a mathematical tool if you want to call it that. Our bloodstream contains nothing in the way of any cholesterol that could be classified as being non-HDL.  Where doctors find a use for this tool is when a patient’s LDL cholesterol level is within limits, which is to say it is sufficiently low so as to not represent a significant risk, but the non-HDL reading is too high. This means the patient is still at risk, with the problem being one of there being an excessive amount of triglycerides in the bloodstream. If the results of a blood test only gave LDL and HDL cholesterol readings, this would be missed. It should be pointed out that when blood tests are taken, triglyceride levels are not always measured.


A Means Of Gathering Useful Information


This business of adding and subtracting cholesterol levels, and folding in a percentage of the triglyceride level measurement may seem to be much ado about nothing. What’s important though is that this seemingly new measurement gives a physician additional useful information when treating someone with heart disease, or someone whose cholesterol levels are out of balance. All of this does not represent some kind of a medical breakthrough. It is more of a campaign to get more and more physicians to use the non-HDL cholesterol measurement as a means of gaining additional information about the well-being of their patients.


After having said all of this, there are three things one needs to be working towards when taking into account dietary and lifestyle habits: keep LDL cholesterol levels low; keep HDL levels high; and, keep triglyceride levels low. The non-HDL cholesterol level will take care of itself.