The Nation's Health + [Heart scans]

It's the score, stupid

Sal has had 3 heart scans. (He was not on the Track Your Plaque program.) His scores:

March, 2006: 439

April, 2007: 573

October, 2009: 799

Presented with the 39% increase from April, 2007 to October, 2009, Sal's doctor responded, "I don't understand. Your LDL cholesterol is fine."

This is the sort of drug-driven, cholesterol-minded thinking that characterizes 90% of primary care and cardiologists' practices: "Cholesterol is fine; therefore, you must be fine, too."

No. Absolutely not.

The data are clear: Heart scan scores that continue to increase at this rate predict high risk for cardiovascular events. Unfortunately, when my colleagues hear this, they respond by scheduling a heart catheterization to prevent heart attack--a practice that has never been shown to be effective and, in my view, constitutes malpractice (i.e., performing heart procedures in people with no symptoms and with either no stress test or a normal stress test).

It's the score, stupid! It's not the LDL cholesterol. Pay attention to the increasing heart scan score and you will know that the disease is progressing at an alarming rate. Accepting this fact will set you and your doctor on the track to ask "Why?"

That's when you start to uncover all the dozens of other reasons that plaque can grow that have nothing to do with LDL cholesterol or statin drugs.