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BetterU program to encourage women to improve heart health

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The American Heart Association is encouraging north country women to put their heart health first.

Spokeswoman Kristy Smorol said women often put their children’s or significant others’ health before their own, but the American Heart Association’s BetterU program allows women to participate in a 12-week program to improve their heart health.

“They’ll be getting baseline heart screenings, so that way they can target what they need to personally,” she said.

Tests will be done to check a participant’s blood glucose level, blood pressure and cholesterol. All blood work and tests will be done in conjunction with Samaritan Medical Center, which has partnered with the American Heart Association for the program.

Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said the hospital’s participation in BetterU is an extension of its sponsorship of the association’s annual North Country Heart Walk.

“We’re going to use one of our family health center physicians to follow the women from start to finish,” Ms. Kittle said. “It’s a program that’s very well structured. We’re really happy to be able to bring it to this community.”

Ms. Smorol said BetterU was successful as a pilot program in Central New York. While all women are encouraged to apply for the program before Aug. 30, only 10 will be selected for participation. Throughout the 12-week journey, women also will have access to the Watertown Family Y.

“It’s really about learning lasting lifestyle changes,” she said. “We want them to take what they learn in these 12 weeks and keep going. This isn’t some fad diet; it’s a healthy lifestyle. We really want to show that anyone can do this.” She said all participants will almost act as spokespeople for changes and will blog throughout their journey. Women of all ages, ethnicity, backgrounds and health risks are encouraged to apply.

According to the program website, participants will receive a three-month membership in the Y, personal training at the Y, nutrition advice from a professional, a supermarket shopping outing and group support from fellow participants.

Ms. Smorol said she would love to have the American Heart Association sponsor BetterU in the north country more often, once the nonprofit sees how successful it is. The program will run here September through December. All participants will be celebrated at the North Country Heart Walk kickoff in January, according to an association news release.

Women can apply to the program by visiting the website, www.heart.org/northcountrybetteru.

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