The Nation's Health + [Heart disease reversal]

Heart disease reversal a big "No No"

I dare you: Ask your doctor whether coronary heart disease can be reversed.

My prediction is that the answer will be a flat "NO." Or, something like "rarely, in extraordinary cases," kind of like spontaneous cure of cancer.

There are indeed discussions that have developed over the years in the conventional scientific and medical literature about reversal of heart disease, like Dean Ornish's Lifestyle Heart Trial, the REVERSAL Trial of atorvastatin (Lipitor) and the ASTEROID Trial of rosuvastatin (Crestor). Reversal of atherosclerotic plaque in these trials tends to be small in scale and sporadic.

Of course, the medical literature is swamped with studies that have nothing to do with reversal, like what stent is best, what platelet-inhibiting intravenous drug is best, when should angioplasty or stents be used and when, do implantable defibrillators save lives, improvements in coronary bypass techniques, etc. There are tens of thousands of these studies for every study that focuses on the question of atherosclerotic plaque reversal.

The concept of reversal of heart disease has simply not gained a foothold in the lexicon nor in the thinking of practicing physicians. Heart disease is a relentlessly, unavoidably, and helplessly progressive disease in their way of thinking. Perhaps we can reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular events like heart attack and death with statin drugs and beta blockers. But reverse heart disease ? In your dreams!

We need to change this mentality. Heart disease is a reversible phenomenon. Atherosclerosis in other territories like the carotid arteries is also a reversible pheneomenon. Rather than throwing medicines and (ineffective) diets at you (like the ridiculous American Heart Association program), what if your doctor set out from the start not just to reduce events, but to purposefully reduce your heart's plaque? While it might not succeed in everyone, it would certainly change the focus dramatically.

After all, isn't this the theme followed in cancer treatment? If you had a tumor, isn't cure the goal? Would we accept an oncologist's advice to simply reduce the likelihood of death from cancer but ignore the idea of ridding yourself completely of the disease? I don't think so.

Then why accept "event reduction" as a goal in heart disease? We shouldn't have to. Heart disease reversal--elimination--should be the goal.