How Marquette County’s heart disease affects virus

Victoria Anderson

As we have learned from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an increased risk of having a severe illness and even death from a COVID-19 infection if one has an underlying condition, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, asthma, COPD, smoking, liver disease and kidney disease.

The problem for the people of Marquette County, especially men, is that they have a higher rate of heart disease than the national average as reported by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Marquette County men die from ischemic heart disease at a rate of 230.6 deaths per 100,000 whereas the national average is 191.5 deaths per 100,000. Marquette County women die from heart disease at the rate of 130.7 per 100,000 whereas the national average is 124.9 deaths per 100,000.

The high rate of heart disease in Marquette County relative to urban and suburban populations is consistent with other rural communities in America.

In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Marquette County among adults between the ages of 50-79 and heart disease is also the leading cause of death within the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The risk factors that lead to a higher incidence of heart disease are smoking, poor diet, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and genetics. The good news is that 80% of heart disease is preventable according to a U. P. Community Health Assessment.

Therefore, lifestyle and dietary changes will reduce hearth disease and lessen the risk for severe COVID-19 complications. Unfortunately, too many at-risk adults lack the information and will power to make these changes.

So, what are the solutions? The Marquette County Health Department, MSU Extension, YMCA and other agencies have developed promising programs, many of which unfortunately are on hold due to the COVID pandemic. Rebecca Maino of MCHD reports that the battle against heart disease begins with children.

Healthy Kids U.P. offers school curriculum on nutrition and fitness to combat the epidemic in child obesity. Marquette County ACHIEVE Coalition of 14 agencies strives to make “The Healthy Choice, the Easy Choice” by promoting health with environmental and policy changes, including the JJ Packs program which provides healthy food packs for low income MAPS children on weekends.

The Marquette Food Coop makes donations of organic fruits for JJ Packs. This is an important program because low income families often cannot afford to make the more expensive choice of healthier foods, such as organic whole grain bread over white bread.

Twenty-seven percent of MAPS children fall below the poverty line. Another ACHIEVE initiative is to work with the County’s restaurants to add “heart healthy” designations on heathier menu items. Both YMCA facilities are open and offer discounted memberships for low income children and families. Rebecca Waino also applauds the work of the federal Women, Infants & Children program which is still operating under COVID and offers nutrition programs for low income expecting mothers, new moms and infants.

For adults, every part of Marquette County offers incomparable, beautiful trails for walking, biking and skiing: Iron Ore Heritage Trail, Marquette City, RAMBA, Blueberry Ridge, the Noquemanon Trail Network, Al Quual and Gwinn. Sadly, not enough of the County’s residents make use of these trails. Before COVID-19, the NMU dome was available for walking, especially useful during the winter months.

For adults with mobility issues, the YMCA facilities are still open. Especially for retired people, all that is required is will power to stick to a daily exercise plan and walk, ride bikes or try out the many gyms. Before COVID, retired persons could also take advantage of healthy programs and congregate meals at the County’s many senior citizen centers.

Now, the centers are offering 2 drive-up meals per month, but Meals on Wheels is still offering home-delivered meals, and most routes still offer daily deliveries, with some restrictions for rural routes. Meals on Wheels can be reached at 906-228-6522 (ext. 302).

Hopefully, as the COVID pandemic ends, a full court press on combatting heart disease can continue. Society needs to be aware that they and their loved ones are affected by heart disease, yet there are still not enough preventative measures to suppress this disease.

In order to suppress this, it is critical that there is a need for legislative action to allow heart disease rates to decease by adding regulations on the intake of fast and unhealthy foods, providing more health education programs, increasing access to heathier foods that promote a healthy lifestyle.

Editor’s note: Victoria Anderson, of Marquette, is pursuing her Masters of Public Health and Policy Administration at the University of Minnesota and is currently researching the high rates of heart disease in Marquette County.


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