(HARTFORD, Conn.) – The Women’s Heart Program at the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center now offers a free program for women designed to provide life-saving education about heart disease.

The statistics are dramatic: According to the American Medical Association, nearly 500,000 women will die each year from cardiovascular disease. In fact, women are 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer, making it the leading cause of death among women.

“The ultimate goal of this program is intended for women to really know their risks and develop the necessary dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to maintain a healthy heart now, rather than down the road when the damage has already been done,” said Anita Kelsey, M.D. the Saint Francis cardiologist leading the program.

The Women’s Heart Program begins with a consultation with a registered nurse, nutritionist and exercise physiologist. Throughout the evaluation, women will learn about key risks such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“The Women’s Heart Program is a unique facet of specialized care that we are proud to offer. Our team of physicians, nurses and other clinicians diversifies our program to cover every aspect of the potential effects of heart disease facing women today,” said Christopher Dadlez, CEO, Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

In May 2005, the Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute at Saint Francis was awarded a $450,000, three-year grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to help fund a community outreach initiative that is part of the new Women’s Heart Program.

“Our intention with this grant is to help women in our community understand this deadly disease and to learn ways to identify and minimize the risks that are particular to them,” said Linda J. Kelly, President of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Hoffman Heart clinicians will also work with local partners within the community including the Capitol Region Conference of Churches to help facilitate access to the program.

“By reaching into the core of the community, establishing alliances with various community-based outlets, our intent is to be able to target 1,500 women each year in the Greater Hartford area: all types of women, including women of color, perimenopausal women, and postmenopausal women who may already have cardiovascular disease,” added Dr. Kelsey.

The program is free and women are encouraged to take that first step by calling to schedule a consultation; 1-877-STFRANCIS

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for the 29-town Greater Hartford region. Over the past 80 years, it has built successful partnerships with donors and non-profit agencies to enhance the quality of life for people in the community.

Founded in 1897, Saint Francis is a major teaching hospital licensed for 617 acute inpatient beds and 65 bassinets and is the largest Catholic hospital in New England.