Without a concerted effort at prevention, heart scan scores (coronary calcium scores) grow like weeds. The average rate of growth is 30% per year.
Keith is an illustrative case. At age 39, Keith's heart scan score was 29 , in the 99th percentile due to his young age. (In other words, young people before age 40 have no business having plaque. If they do, it's bad.)
True to conventional practice, Keith's doctor prescribed a cholesterol drug (Zocor), asked him to take a baby aspirin, and prescribed a blood pressure medicine. He asked Keith to cut the fat in his diet. His doctor even exceeded conventional (ATP-III) LDL cholesterol treatment targets.
Keith, an intelligent and motivated businessman, happily complied with his doctor's instructions. Eighteen months later, a 2nd heart scan showed a score of 68 , representing an increase of 135%, or 76% per year.
This is the very same approach that the late Mr. Tim Russert's doctors employed: treat (calculated) LDL cholesterol with a statin drug, treat high blood pressure, reduce saturated fat, take aspirin. It was a miserable failure in Keith, whose plaque continued to grow at a frightening rate of 76% per year. It was also an obvious failure in poor Tim Russert.
Further investigation in Keith uncovered:
--Severe small LDL--80% of all LDL was small (despite a favorable HDL of 58 mg/dl)
--Measured LDL particle number (NMR) showed that "true" LDL was actually about 60 mg/dl higher than suggested by the crude calculated LDL
--An after-eating (postprandial) disorder (IDL)
--A pre-diabetic blood sugar and insulin
--Severe vitamin D deficiency
--Very low testosterone
All these patterns were present despite the steps Keith and his doctor had instituted. It's no wonder his plaque was undergoing explosive growth.
The conventional approach to coronary disease prevention is inadequate, more often than not a mindless adherence to one-size-fits-all template crafted to a great degree by drug industry interests and "experts" who often stand at arm's length from real live patients.
Keith's "residual" abnormalities are all readily correctable. He has since made dramatic improvements in all parameters. Among the strategies used is a wheat- and cornstarch-free diet that resulted in 12 lbs lost within the first few weeks of effort.
If you are on the "Russert Protocol," have a serious conversation with your doctor about the continued advisability of remaining on this half-assed approach to heart disease. Or, consider finding another doctor.