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Dr. Sneha Parmar, a Kelsey-Seybold cardiologist, identifies a path to a healthier heart and lifestyle.

Let’s start by dispelling a common misconception: “If you have a family history of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues, you’re doomed to the same unhealthy heart-related consequences, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Not true!

Yes, genetics plays a role in your long-term heart health, but, according to the American Heart Association, heart disease is almost 90 percent preventable by eating foods that are low in salt and cholesterol, exercising regularly, and not smoking – and that statistic includes those with a family history of heart disease.

There is one habit doctors agree can negatively impact heart health.

When it comes to heart health, there is one bad lifestyle habit that cardiologists and other physicians agree can have devastating effects on your heart and overall health.

Here it is.

The single worst habit related to cardiovascular health is using tobacco – including smoking, vaping, chewing, or taking nicotine in any of its insidious forms. Using nicotine significantly increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and peripheral vascular disease. And regular tobacco use can cause plaque to build up in coronary arteries by raising bad (LDL) cholesterol levels, and this is yet another increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. (You already know, of course, that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.)

I realize that if you smoke or vape it’s not a habit you can easily give up. However, quitting is the single best thing you can do for your health.

I encourage anyone who smokes or vapes to talk to a healthcare provider about options and strategies, including prescription medications, that may help them quit. Consider calling the Texas Tobacco Quitline at 1-877-YES-QUIT or visit to help kick this unhealthy habit.

Here are (my) 7 suggestions to be tobacco-free:

  1. Set a quit date. The date could be a special date that carries meaning for you such as a birthday or anniversary; but don’t delay quitting by waiting until the next New Year’s Day.
  2. Get support from family, friends, and co-workers.
  3. Anticipate nicotine withdrawal cravings and plan to meet the challenges, especially during the critical first two weeks.
  4. Total abstinence is essential. Don’t take even one puff.
  5. Avoid alcohol – it is strongly associated with relapse.
  6. Avoid other smokers. 
  7. If necessary, use prescription medication. Kelsey-Seybold’s Pulmonary Medicine specialists can be of immense help. 

What’s next?

If you don’t smoke or vape, you’re not entirely off the unhealthy-heart hook. Other habits can negatively impact heart health, including unhealthy diets, a sedentary lifestyle, and alcoholism.

Eat heart-healthy foods:

  1. Beets help keep blood vessels dilated and healthy. Studies suggest beets help manage blood pressure.
  2. Tofuis a major source of plant protein and a smart substitute for red meat and pork. Heavy meat eaters should gradually replace meat with other healthy foods, and tofu is one. Meats, such as salami, bacon, pastrami, corned beef, and hotdogs have been linked to clogged arteries and contributing to colorectal cancer.
  3. Olives and olive oilsboost good, heart-protective cholesterol, which helps stave off heart attacks and strokes.
  4. Avocados arerich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium, all nutrients associated with heart health. Avocados are also sodium-free, an advantage for those with high blood pressure.
  5. Oatmeal reducescholesterol absorption and helps lower existing cholesterol levels.
  6. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps lower the risk of coronary disease.
  7. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberrieshave heart-healthy credentials for their fiber as well as their flavonoids and antioxidants. And consider red grapes, which are high in resveratrol – a heart-healthy antioxidant.

Hypertension – high blood pressure – is a preventable disease.

No discussion on heart health should be complete without weighing in on hypertension. Unmanaged hypertension can lead to strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease, and death. It’s often referred to as a “silent killer” because in the earlier stages it may not present noticeable symptoms – until it progresses to dangerous health consequences.

The American Heart Association and Kelsey-Seybold doctors recommend that everyone know their blood pressure reading; we recommend having your blood pressure checked regularly by a physician during an in-clinic visit. If necessary, a physician can prescribe medications that help manage unhealthy blood pressure levels.

What do those top and bottom numbers represent?

Systolic pressure: The top number is a measurement of the force exerted by your heart each time it beats on the walls of your arteries.

Diastolic pressure: The bottom number is a measurement of the force exerted by your heart between beats on the walls of your arteries.

Recent guidelines suggest a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 as being acceptable as normal.

Here are a few ways you can help lower your blood pressure:

  • Increase activity and exercise more. Walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or even dancing can help lower blood pressure. High-intensity interval training and strength training can also help.
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight. Losing 5 to 10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure.
  • Cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  • Try practicing yoga.
  • The No. 1 way to easily manage blood pressure: Shake the salt habit and reduce your sodium intake.


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By Sneha Parmar, MD, FACC
Sneha Parmar, MD | Cardiology | Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

Dr. Parmar is a board-certified Cardiovascular Disease specialist and Internal Medicine physician with more than 16 years of diverse medical experience, especially in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular diseases using nuclear medicine and echocardiography.

She welcomes new patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Cypress Clinic and The Vintage Clinic. 

For appointments, call 713-442-0000.