News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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February Is Heart Health Awareness Month
Heart disease number one threat to women’s health

As the leading cause of death in Michigan and the leading killer of women, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan joins the Michigan Department of Community Health in recognizing February as Heart Health Awareness Month to bring attention to this critical health issue.

Heart disease kills more women than the next six causes of death including all forms of cancer. A 2006 survey showed that 57 percent of women knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. “This is a significant increase in awareness compared to earlier surveys in 2000 and 2003,” said Erika Shankland, Family & Community Health Supervisor for the Health Department. “In the past, many women surveyed identified breast cancer as the largest health threat.”

Though aging, family health history, and race are all considered uncontrollable risk factors for heart disease, risks such as cigarette smoking, inactivity, and obesity are considered avoidable. Roughly 20 percent of Michigan women smoke. Further, most women in Michigan do not get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week, nor do they eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Regular physical activity and a heart healthy diet are important ways to lower your risk.

Regular checkups with your family physician are also very important, according to Joshua Meyerson, MD, Medical Director for the Health Department. Conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, he said.

The American Heart Association identifies the following warning signs of a heart attack and emphasizes that many heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort:

If you or someone you are with experiences chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the above signs or symptoms, call 9-1-1 or get to a hospital immediately. “Recognizing the symptoms of heart disease can save lives,” Meyerson said.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information on heart health, visit To learn more about small steps you can take towards better health, visit the Michigan Surgeon General’s Web site, Michigan Steps Up, at