The heart works around the clock, pumping blood throughout the body. That’s why it’s important to keep this powerful muscle as healthy and strong as possible.


But heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), poses a serious risk to your heart health. Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease, is the most common type of heart disease. Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque (a substance made of cholesterol and fatty deposits), is the main source of CAD. It causes the coronary arteries to narrow or become blocked.


You might not have any symptoms of CAD until you experience a heart attack, which is caused by an area of plaque breaking away and forming a blood clot, blocking a coronary artery and stopping blood flow to the heart. But there are things you can do to lessen your risk of heart attack.


“While some causes of heart disease are hereditary, many are due to poor health choices,” said Dr. Zohair Raza, cardiologist with Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital. “It is important to make changes—even small ones—to help your heart stay as healthy as possible.”


CAD causes you can’t control:

Age. Getting older increases your risk for CAD.

Family history. You’re at greater risk for coronary heart disease if you have a parent with a history of heart disease.

Gender. Men are at greater risk for CAD, and so are women who have gone through menopause.


You can control the following CAD causes with healthy lifestyle changes:

Diabetes. Keep blood glucose and A1C levels under control. Eventually, high glucose levels damage blood vessels and the nerves that regulate the heart.

High blood pressure. Limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 milligrams or one teaspoon of salt a day.

High blood cholesterol. Avoid fried foods, fast food, bacon, hot dogs, cakes and cookies, which contain unhealthy fats and added sugar.

Overweight or obesity. Start by losing a small amount, just 3% to 5% of your current weight, to improve your heart health.

Physical inactivity. Aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week to help you lose weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and ease stress.

Smoking. Try nicotine gums and patches, hypnosis or smoking-cessation classes to quit smoking.

Stress. Reduce your stress levels to improve your health. Meditation, yoga, massage and deep breathing techniques may help.

Unhealthy diet. Choose a healthy eating plan like the DASH diet that focuses on lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean protein.


Warning signs of a heart attack include:

• Chest pain, pressure or discomfort that lasts more than a few minutes and spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms

• Shortness of breath (with or without chest pain)

• Breaking out in a cold sweat, lightheadedness, fainting or nausea

• Women are more likely than men to experience symptoms of shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.


“If you or someone you know experiences any of these symptoms, call 911 and seek emergency care immediately,” Raza said.


The Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital is taking every necessary precaution during the coronavirus pandemic to keep you and our staff members safe. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are:

  • Screening all patients, ensuring only those without COVID-19 symptoms are seen in the office
  • Wearing masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) while providing patient care
  • Reorganizing waiting rooms and check-in lines to ensure social distancing
  • Implementing additional sanitation processes to disinfect all equipment and surfaces


The specialists with the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Baytown provide treatment for a wide range of cardiovascular conditions. To schedule an appointment, visit, or call 281.837.7587.