The Nation's Health + [Heart scans]

Track Your Plaque: Safer at any score

Imagine two people.

Tom is a 50-year old man. Tom's initial heart scan score was 500 --a concerning score that carries a 5% risk for heart attack per year.

Harry is also 50 years old. His heart scan score is 100 --also a concerning score, but not to the same degree as Tom's much higher score.

Tom follows the Track Your Plaque program. He achieves the 60:60:60 lipid targets; chooses healthy foods, including elimination of wheat; takes fish oil at a therapeutic dose; increase his blood vitamin D level to 60-70 ng/ml, etc. One year later, Tom's heart scan score is 400 , representing a 20% reduction from his starting score.

Harry, on the other hand, doesn't understand the implications of his score. Neither does his doctor. He's casually provided a prescription for a cholesterol drug by his doctor, a brief admonition to follow a low-fat diet, and little else. One year later, Harry's heart scan score is 200 , a doubling (100% increase) of the original score.

At this point, we're left with Tom having a score of 400 , Harry with a score of 200 . That is, Tom has twice Harry's score, 200 points higher. Who's better off?

Tom with the score of 400 is better off. Even though he has a significantly higher score, Tom's plaque is regressing. Tom's plaque is therefore quiescent with active components being extracted, inflammation subsiding, the artery in a more relaxed state, etc.

Harry's plaque, in contrast, is active and growing: inflammatory cells are abundant and producing enzymes that degrade supportive tissue, constrictive factors are released that cause the artery to pinch partially closed, fatty materials accumulate and trigger a cascade of abnormal responses.

So it's not just the score--the quantity of atherosclerotic plaque present--but the state of activity of the plaque: Is it growing, is it being reduced? Is there escalating or subsiding inflammation? Is plaque filled with degradative enzymes or quiescent?

Following the Track Your Plaque program therefore leads us to the notion that it's not the score that's most important; the most important thing is what you're doing about it . We sometimes say that Track Your Plaque makes you safer at any score .