The Nation's Health + [Heart scans]

What goes up can't come down

According to conventional wisdom, heart scan scores cannot be reduced.

In other words, say you begin with a heart scan score of 300. Conventional wisdom says you should take aspirin and a statin drug, eat a low-fat "heart healthy" diet, and take high blood pressure medications, if necessary.

If your heart scan score goes up in a year or two, especially at an annual rate of 20% or more, then you are at very high risk for heart attack. If the heart scan score stays the same, then your risk is much reduced. These observations are well-established.

But more than 99% of physicians will tell you that reducing your heart scan score is impossible. Don't even try: Heart scan scores can go up, but they can't go down .

Baloney. Heart scan scores can indeed go down. And they can go down dramatically.

It is true that, following conventional advice like taking a statin drug, following a low-fat diet, and taking aspirin will fail to reduce your heart scan score. A more rational approach that 1) identifies all causes of coronary plaque, 2) corrects all causes while including crucial strategies like omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, vitamin D supplementation, and thyroid function normalization, is far more likely to yield a halt or reduction in score.

While not everybody who undertakes the Track Your Plaque program will succeed in reducing their heart scan score, a growing number are enjoying success.

A small portion of our experience was documented this past summer. (I collected and analyzed the data with the help of Rush University nutrition scientist, Dr. Susie Rockway, and statistician, Dr. Mary Kwasny.)

Effect of a combined therapeutic approach of intensive lipid management, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, and increased serum 25 (OH) vitamin D on coronary calcium scores in asymptomatic adults.

Davis W, Rockway S, Kwasny M.

The impact of intensive lipid management, omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin D3 supplementation on atherosclerotic plaque was assessed through serial computed tomography coronary calcium scoring (CCS). Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol reduction with statin therapy has not been shown to reduce or slow progression of serial CCS in several recent studies, casting doubt on the usefulness of this approach for tracking atherosclerotic progression. In an open-label study, 45 male and female subjects with CCS of > or = 50 without symptoms of heart disease were treated with statin therapy, niacin, and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation to achieve low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides < or = 60 mg/dL; high-density lipoprotein > or = 60 mg/dL; and vitamin D3 supplementation to achieve serum levels of > or = 50 ng/mL 25(OH) vitamin D, in addition to diet advice. Lipid profiles of subjects were significantly changed as follows: total cholesterol -24%, low-density lipoprotein -41%; triglycerides -42%, high-density lipoprotein +19%, and mean serum 25(OH) vitamin D levels +83%. After a mean of 18 months, 20 subjects experienced decrease in CCS with mean change of -14.5% (range 0% to -64%); 22 subjects experienced no change or slow annual rate of CCS increase of +12% (range 1%-29%). Only 3 subjects experienced annual CCS progression exceeding 29% (44%-71%). Despite wide variation in response, substantial reduction of CCS was achieved in 44% of subjects and slowed plaque growth in 49% of the subjects applying a broad treatment program.