Applications are available for the 5th Annual BetterU Challenge, sponsored by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation. The American Heart Association invites local women from Dutchess & Ulster counties to apply for the 12-week program designed to improve cardiovascular health through simple lifestyle changes.

Applications are being accepted now through October 12th to be one of the twelve women participants. Download the application at the http://dutchessulstergored.heart.org.

BetterU is a free health, nutrition and fitness program that can help all women make better lifestyle choices. Each week focuses on a different area of heart health and provides step-by-step guidance to help women transform their overall health through small lifestyle changes.

The 12 women selected for the program will receive a three-month membership and personal training at Gold’s Gym, medical evaluation from Health Quest Medical Practice, and free health seminars from local health experts. The BetterU participants will chronicle their journey on a special blog, and be celebrated at the annual Go Red for Women luncheon on February 26, 2016.

“For five years, Central Hudson has been committed to women’s health in the Hudson Valley through the BetterU program. Though there have been declines in heart disease deaths in the past 30 years, recent research demonstrates that death rates in young women under 55 only fell one per cent since 2000. There is more work to do on the prevention side,” said Denise Doring VanBuren, Vice President at Central Hudson.

According to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, deaths from heart disease have declined dramatically over the last few decades but young people, particularly women, are not sharing equally in that improvement. Researchers believe a lack of effective preventive strategies for young people, particularly women, is to blame, and they call for more research into non-traditional risk factors for this understudied group, like stress and obesity.

“Far too many women are still unaware that they can prevent heart disease and stroke. BetterU’s goal is to educate and empower women to live healthier,” she said.

Elizabeth Donahue from Poughkeepsie participated in the BetterU program last year and lost more than 30 pounds, crediting BetterU’s healthier lifestyle and regular exercise recommendations.

“The Better U program kick-started a life-changing experience for me! I am so grateful for the structure and support of the program that gave me the incentive and motivation to put myself first and work towards my health goals,” said Donahue, who, after BetterU competed and placed second in a national fitness challenge with Gold’s Gym, “Every woman should feel like they’re worth the time and effort to make healthy, positive changes towards a better version of themselves.”

Heart disease and stroke takes the life of one in three women — almost one woman every minute. More women than men die of heart disease and stroke. Research shows that 80 percent of cardiac events in women are preventable with simple lifestyle choices involving diet, exercise and avoiding smoking.

To download an application, deadline October 12th, visit http://dutchessulstergored.heart.org. For more information, contact Teresa Marra at 845-905-2134 or email Teresa.marra@heart.org.

BetterU is sponsored by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, Gold’s Gym, Health Quest Medical Practice, the Poughkeepsie Journal and Q92.1 FM. Go Red For Women is sponsored nationally by Macy’s and locally by Health Quest, The Heart Center, MidHudson Regional Hospital, Q92.1 FM and the Poughkeepsie Journal.