Monday, February 03, 2014 - Heart Health Brings About Lifestyle Change


This story appears in the Winter 2014 issue of Heart to Heart, which can be found online by clicking here

COVINGTON - During a recent vacation to New York City, Gene Cooper did something unusual for a 76-year-old great-grandfather on a pleasure trip with his wife.

He included the workout room of his hotel among not-to-be-missed sights that included Broadway shows and subway rides throughout the city to favorite eateries with his wife, Karen.

“If I stick to my exercise, I feel great,” said Cooper, whose workouts at home in Covington include weights and a 30-minute cardiovascular circuit at the West St. Tammany YMCA.

Cooper credits Covington interventional cardiologist Dr. Hamid Salam MD for saving his life and encouraging him to adopt a heart-healthy way of life. In 2009, Dr. Salam placed three stents in Cooper’s heart after discovering blockages in his arteries.

Dr. Salam, part of the multi-specialty team of cardiovascular experts at Covington Cardiovascular Care at St. Tammany Parish Hospital, also discovered a leakage in Cooper’s heart valve. Two months after placing the stents, Dr. Salam implanted a defibrillator in Cooper’s chest.

“I’ve completely changed the way I live in the past few years,” said the now-retired Cooper, who formerly ran a medical-software firm. “I feel like a new person.”

Dr. Salam and other heart experts say lifestyle changes are critical to support the benefit of treatment to reduce the risk of heart disease and slow its progression. Even modest lifestyle changes, such as reducing dietary fat and sodium and walking several times each week, can reduce the risk of heart disease and support the benefits of treatment, experts say.

Cooper’s lifestyle changes focus on diet and exercise. A few years ago, he treated himself to ice cream each night as his day wound down. Now he opts for protein shakes and limits his intake of other sweets.

The Coopers also eat more fish and lean meats than in the past. Cooper avoids certain dark, leafy vegetables that can potentially affect the composition of his blood, he said.

“My wife is quite the dietician,” he said of Karen, a longtime STPH employee who he married in February 2012. “I’m not hungry because I eat good foods.”

Cooper closely follows his regimen of heart medications and checks in regularly with Dr. Salam.

Construction of a new location for Covington Cardiovascular Care’s team of experts will begin in February at 1006 S. Harrison St., across 11th Avenue from the Emergency Department entrance. It is expected to open this summer.

It’s a place Cooper will be certain to visit.

“I tell him (Dr. Salam) he saved an old man’s life,” Cooper said, “because that’s what he did.”


A full-service acute care facility committed to providing world-class healthcare and the latest technology, St. Tammany Parish Hospital delivers today’s life-improving procedures with the utmost care to area residents with emphasis on wellness, preventive care and disease management close to home. STPH is a self-supporting not-for-profit community hospital; it receives no tax funding.