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STATEWIDE–Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but doctors and nurses in Indiana are optimistic because of the technological advancements that have allowed them to diagnose and treat it in the last decade.

February is American Heart Month. Friday is Wear Red Day, the first Friday in February every year. The goal of it is to encourage women to learn the risks of heart disease and take steps to lower those risks.

Dr. Sangita Sudharshan, a cardiologist at Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, says there are new medications that cut down cholesterol as well as earlier diagnosing with stress testing, calcium scoring, and identifying people who are at risk of getting it.

“Even in how we manage heart attacks, how we manage heart failure there has been significant progress. Previously it was: you have a heart problem, you have to rest, stay in bed, you can’t do anything, and now it’s become: come in, you get that taken care of with stents or with medications and hopefully get back to your normal self,” said Sudharshan.

Sudharshan says heart disease disproportionately affects women over men. She says fewer women are getting diagnosed early, which is leading to higher death rates at a lower age. She’s wearing red Friday. That isn’t stopping her, however, from explaining the broad impacts of heart disease.

“Everybody is affected by heart disease either themselves or knowing someone with it. It is so prevalent. And the best ways to reduce your risk and reduce your family’s risk is to really take care of yourself and that’s proactively seeing a doctor, watching your health, eating healthy, and staying active and exercising,” said Sudharshan.

Risk factors for heart disease include: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, family history of heart disease, and age.

Sudharshan recommends not smoking, eating healthy, getting 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week, and meeting with your doctor consistently. 

More than 659,000 people die each year from heart disease, according to the latest data from the CDC.