At a presentation at the American College of Cardiology meetings in New Orleans yesterday (March 27, 2007), Dr. Arthur Agatston declared "I have been doing CT for many years, and I have never seen regression."
Whooooaaaa. Wait a minute here. I have great respect for the work Dr. Agatston has done over the years. He is, after the originator of the scoring algorithm that allows us to score CT heart scans (though a more accurate measure, the volumetric score, is the one we often use behind closed doors because of modestly increased accuracy and reproducibility). His diet program, the South Beach Diet, has achieved enormous success and is indeed an effective approach for both weight loss and correction of many weight-related causes of heart disease.
But he has never seen regression? Why would this be when we see it all the time? When we see heart scan scores drop 30%, it's hard to believe that with some savvy he has never seen regression (drop in score).
I can only attribute the difference to the more intensive endpoints we advocate (e.g., 60-60-60 for lipid values); the incorporation of adjuncts like fish oil, vitamin D, l-arginine; attention to non-cholesterol issues and intensified treatments for each. I doubt that the populations we see differ substantially.
As much as I admire Dr. Agatston's accomplishments, I believe that he is behind the times on this issue. No regression is so starkly different from the Track Your Plaque experience. I believe that relying only on statin drugs and diet will slow but will not stop plaque growth. It will also rarely, if ever, drop your score.
Attention to detail and a little insight into better preventive strategies really pays off. While not everyone in the Track Your Plaque experience will drop their score, a substantial number do. Many more slow plaque growth dramatically. And, as time goes on, our track record gets stronger and stronger.