February is Heart Health Month, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women and there are some risk factors involved.

Gabrielle Dawkins sits down with Allison Burkett, a vascular surgeon, who has a wake-up call for many people.

Burkett has 17 years of experience in the medical field.

"I operate anywhere you have blood vessels except for the heart and the brain," says Burkett.

Six years after performing her first surgery as a medical professional, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with heart disease.

"Just after my 39th birthday, I had some shortness of breath," says Burkett. "I was having what I thought was indigestion, and I asked a colleague of mine, expecting it to be nothing, to check me out and I had a positive stress test.

Within a week, doctors performed a procedure to place a stent in her body.

"After getting my heart catheterization and seeing how severely blocked my artery was, I just kind of just went into deeper shame and I didn't want to talk about it," says Burkett.

"I felt like an imposter -- I'm a beacon of health, I'm a physician and I allowed something to happen to me," says Burkett.

She has a family history of heart disease, but she thinks other factors played a major role in her diagnosis.

"I wasn't a smoker. As I said, I had a healthy lifestyle," says Burkett. "I was at a great weight for my height, but I had a lot of stress at that time."

But that same shame turned into motivation to help her relate to her patients.

"I'm on some of the same medicines or I feel some of the same shame, guilt, and vulnerability, so I integrate that in everything I do," says Burkett.

There are a few changes that can be made to reduce your risk -- increase healthy eating, quit smoking, and exercise regularly.

Saturday, February, 10th, the Coliseum is hosting a free cardiovascular risk assessment that includes testing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. It starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 10 a.m..

It's located at 330 Hospital Drive, Macon, Ga. in building C Suite 120. To reserve a spot, call 478-746-4646.