Routine cholesterol screening is provided at the Marquette County Health Department Personal Health Clinic by appointment.  A fasting comprehensive cholesterol analysis will be mailed to participants with recommendations for a fee of $15. To make an appointment, please call (906) 475-7844.

Why is it important to know what your blood cholesterol level?
High Blood Cholesterol leads to heart disease. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, the excess can become trapped in the walls of your arteries. By building up there, the cholesterol helps to cause "hardening of the arteries" or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes most heart attacks. This happens when the cholesterol buildup narrows the arteries that supply blood to the heart, slowing or even blocking the flow of blood to the heart. So, the heart gets less oxygen than it needs. This weakens the heart muscle, and chest pain (angina) may occur. If a blood clot forms in the narrowed artery, a heart attack (myocardial infarction) or even death can result.

What is Cholesterol?
A soft, waxy substance. The body makes enough cholesterol to meet its needs. Cholesterol is used in the manufacture of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. It is present in all parts of the body, including the nervous system, muscle, skin, liver, intestines, and heart.

  • Blood cholesterol -- Cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream. It is made in the liver and absorbed from the food you eat. The blood carries it for use by all parts of the body. A high level of blood cholesterol leads to atherosclerosis and an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Dietary cholesterol -- Cholesterol in the food you eat. It is present only in foods of animal origin, not those of plant origin. Dietary cholesterol, like dietary saturated fat, raises blood cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease.

What's all this about "Good" vs. "Bad" Cholesterol?

Two types of lipoprotein affect your risk of heart disease.

  • Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs): the "bad" cholesterol. LDLs carry most of the cholesterol in the blood, and the cholesterol and fat from LDLs are the main source of dangerous buildup and blockage in the arteries. Thus, the more LDL-cholesterol you have in your blood, the greater your risk of heart disease.
  • High-density lipoproteins (HDLs): the "good" cholesterol. HDLs carry some of the cholesterol in the blood, but this cholesterol goes back to the liver, which leads to its removal from the body. So HDLs help keep cholesterol from building up in the walls of the arteries. If your level of good cholesterol is low, your risk of heart disease is greater.

Why do some people have too much cholesterol in their blood?
Many factors help determine whether your blood cholesterol level is high or low. The following factors are the most important:

Heredity. Your genes partly determine the amount of cholesterol your body makes, and high blood cholesterol can run in families.

Diet. Two nutrients in the foods you eat make your blood cholesterol level go up: saturated fat, a type of fat found mostly in foods that come from animals; and cholesterol, which comes only from animal products. Saturated fat raises your cholesterol level more than anything else in the diet. Reducing the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat is an important step in reducing your blood cholesterol levels.

Weight. Excess weight tends to increase your blood cholesterol level. If you are overweight and have a high blood cholesterol, losing weight may help you lower it.

Physical activity/exercise. Regular physical activity may help to lower LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol levels.

Age and sex. Before menopause, women have total cholesterol levels that are lower than those of men the same age. Pregnancy raises blood cholesterol levels in many women, but blood cholesterol levels should return to normal about 20 weeks after delivery. As women and men get older, their blood cholesterol levels rise. In women, menopause often causes an increase in their LDL-cholesterol level. Some women may benefit from taking estrogen after menopause, because estrogen lowers LDLs and raises HDLs.

Alcohol. Alcohol intake increases HDL-cholesterol. However, doctors don't know whether it also reduces the risk of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can certainly damage the liver and heart muscle and cause other health problems, Because of these risks, you should not drink alcoholic beverages to prevent heart disease.

Stress. Stress over the long term has not been shown to raise blood cholesterol levels. The real problem with stress may be how it affects your habits. For example, when some people are under stress, they console themselves by eating fatty foods. The saturated fat and cholesterol in these foods probably cause higher blood cholesterol, not the stress itself.

Risk factors for Heart Disease:

Factors You Can Do Something About Factors You Cannot Control
Cigarette Smoking Age: 45 years or older for men

55 years or older for women

High blood cholesterol (high total cholesterol and high LDL-cholesterol) Family history of early heart disease (heart attack or sudden death): Father or brother stricken before the age of 55.

Mother or sister stricken before the age of 65.

Low HDL-cholesterol  
High blood pressure  
Diabetes  
Obesity  
Physical inactivity  

The following websites have more information regarding cholesterol:

For more information on this program, please contact:

Marquette County Health Department
184 US 41 East
Negaunee, Michigan  49866
(906) 475-7844
(906) 475-4435 (fax)