BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Every minute in this country, one woman dies because of heart disease. It is the number one killer of women.

As Gigi Barnett reports, Baltimore churches are now teaming up with doctors to reach the women most at risk.

A sea of red packs the Bethel AME Church in Northwest Baltimore. It’s Red Dress Sunday, a program developed by St. Agnes Hospital 10 years ago, teaming up with churches to reach women about the dangers of heart disease.

“They found out that I had three blockages and needed triple bypass immediately,” said heart disease patient Georgetta Thomas.

That was the doctor’s recommendation for Thomas two years ago. She never felt any symptoms.

“I didn’t find out that my family had heart disease until after I had mine,” Thomas said. “And then all of a sudden, here they come. I have this, I have that. And I said, ‘Well, why didn’t you say something? This could have been avoided.'”

Since then, she’s made several life-saving changes that include more healthy eating and loads of exercise.

St. Agnes chief cardiologist Dr. Carlos Ince says Red Dress Sunday is for all women, but especially black women, who are more susceptible to the deadly disease. Many of them skip annual checkups.

“It’s not just fear. Sometimes it’s just access. Sometimes it’s just you’re busy taking care of everyone else that you don’t take care of yourself. You come last on the list,” Ince said.

“I heard my pastor say, ‘If you don’t take care of the foundation, the building will crumble.’ I didn’t want my building to crumble, so I took care of my foundation,” Thomas said.

After the service, women can come to a health fair and get more information on the disease or check their hearts.

A decade ago, Red Dress Sunday started with just two churches. This year, about 130 churches participated.

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