What is Non HDL Cholesterol?
Cholesterol readings don’t have to be confusing. There is total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. There’s also non-HDL cholesterol.
What exactly is non-HDL cholesterol, how is it different from the other cholesterol readings, and what do you need to know about it?
As you might know, not all cholesterol is bad. Your body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. But you don’t want too much of it, particularly the bad kinds.
Non-HDL cholesterol, also known as non-HDL-C, is a way of measuring how much of the bad kinds of cholesterol you have in your blood. It’s also a helpful way for your doctor to evaluate your risk of heart disease.
Keep reading to learn about what makes up your non-HDL cholesterol number, how it affects heart health, and how you can reduce this type of cholesterol.
Lipid panel with non-HDL cholesterol
To determine your cholesterol levels, your doctor trusted Source will order a blood test called a lipid panel. This test measures the cholesterol in your blood. Some doctors may order a panel of tests that covers all the fats in your blood, including cholesterol and triglycerides.
When you get a lipid panel with non-HDL cholesterol, your doctor is measuring your HDL and LDL cholesterol. HDL is also known as the “good” cholesterol, while LDL is often called the “bad” cholesterol.
ExpertsTrusted Source measures non-HDL cholesterol by subtracting your HDL cholesterol from your total cholesterol.
Your doctor may request this test to offer strategies to reduce your risk of heart disease. You might be at a higher risk of heart disease if you have high total cholesterol, or if you have:
- high blood pressure
- diabetes or prediabetes
Also, some lifestyle factors may lead your doctor to measure your non-HDL cholesterol:
- unbalanced diet
- lack of regular exercise
You may get other tests along with the lipid panel with non-HDL cholesterol, the University of Rochester Medical Center says. To further assess your heart health, your doctor may also request:
- electrocardiogram (ECG) to study your heartbeat
- stress test where you exercise while connected to ECG
- echocardiogram to take an image of your heart
- cardiac catheterization which allows doctors to take X-rays to find blockages in your arteries
All of these tests give your doctor the information they need to help you improve and support your heart health.
What’s the difference between non-HDL and other cholesterol readings?
Many people want to lower the level of cholesterol in their blood. But total cholesterol doesn’t tell the whole story.
To better understand your heart disease risks, total cholesterol is broken down into:
- high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol
- low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- non-HDL cholesterol
Let’s take a closer look at each type of cholesterol and what it means.
HDL is commonly referred to as the “good” cholesterol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, that’s because it transports non-HDL cholesterol from the bloodstream to the liver. The liver then removes non-HDL cholesterol from the body. This helps prevent plaque from building up in your arteries.
Having high HDL naturally is good for your health. Some medications, like niacin, can raise your HDL. But a 2017 studyTrusted Source showed that taking niacin to increase HDL was not effective at preventing heart attacks.
LDL is sometimes called “bad” cholesterol. If you have too much, it can clog your arteries and restrict blood flow. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke. You want your LDL cholesterol to be as low as possible.
Triglycerides are a kind of fat you get from food. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, extra triglycerides can pile up when you eat more calories than you burn off.
High triglyceride levels in the blood have been linked to heart disease. But other conditions, like diabetes and obesity, often accompany high triglyceride levels. In a 2019 study Trusted Source, researchers weren’t sure if triglycerides may cause heart disease or if these other conditions may be responsible.
Like LDL, the goal is to keep triglyceride levels low.
Related to triglycerides are very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL), which are made in the liver. VLDL won’t show up on your report because there’s no way to accurately measure it. It’s typically estimated as a percentage of the triglyceride value. This is important because VLDL transports triglycerides. ResearchTrusted Source has shown that over time, VLDL can turn into LDL cholesterol.
As the name implies, non-HDL cholesterol is basically your HDL, or “good,” cholesterol number subtracted from your total cholesterol number. In other words, it’s a measure of all the “bad” types of cholesterol. Ideally, you want this number to be lower rather than higher.