ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Heart Disease is the leading health risk for women and the number one cause of death. This month, the American Heart Association is launching a program to raise awareness and change the lives of 12 local women with a heart health improvement program.  

Each year, a dozen women participate in the American Heart Association’s BetterU Program. It’s a physical and mental health overhaul aimed at improving heart health. The 12-week program is free, sponsored by CAP COM, Federal Credit Union, Upstate Animal Medical Center, Neil and Jane Golub, and MicroKnowledge/ProKnowledge.

For three months, the group of women will meet weekly for exercise at Planet Fitness, education with a Price Chopper nutritionist, and support meetings to reduce stress.

Jackie Sheffer is the co-chair of the 2022 Go Red for Women Luncheon and a BetterU Program alumni. She said the program taught her that lifestyle changes are the most critical aspect of staying healthy.

“As women, I think we look at that number on that little box [scale] in the bathroom, and really that number means nothing,” Sheffer said. “What matters is your blood pressure, your heart rate.”

According to Cleveland Clinic, 90 percent of heart disease can be prevented with lifestyle changes—a healthier diet, regular exercise, and not smoking.

Sheffer added that on top of all the education she received in the program, the network of women was one of the most beneficial components of the BetterU Program. 

“I think the biggest piece of it, while all that information is great, is the camaraderie that you build with the other 12 women you go through the program with,” Sheffer said. “I’m still very close to a lot of those women. So we kind of keep ourselves in check.”  

Applications are available at CapitalRegionNYGoRedLuncheon.heart.org or by email at heartofalbany@heart.org starting on June 27. The program will begin in August and end on November 12 with a celebration of the group’s accomplishments at the Go Red For Women Luncheon at the Albany Capital Center.