The Nation's Health + [Heart disease reversal]

Heart disease reversal: Big heart scan scores drop

High heart scan scores of, say, greater than 1000 are more difficult to reduce than lower scores.

I learned this lesson early in the experience of trying to drop scores. In the first few years of trying to drop scores, I saw relatively modest scores of 20, 50, or 100 drop readily, even when the usual targets were not fully achieved, and even before the incorporation of some of the more exciting recent additions to the Track Your Plaque program, like vitamin D.

But big scores of 1000, 2000, or 3000 are a tougher nut to crack. In the first few years, what I usually saw was a slowing , or "deceleration," of growth from the expected rate of annual score increase of 30% that would continue for a year or two, followed by zero change. In the first year of effort, for example, a score increase of 18% was common. 10% was common in year two, then finally zero change in year three. Somehow, the more plaque you begin with, the more "momentum" in growth is present and the longer it takes to stop it. Kind of like stopping a compact car versus stopping a freight train.

But more recently, I'm seeing faster drops. Today, Charlie came to the office to discuss his second heart scan. 18 months earlier, Charlie's first scan showed a score of 3,112 , high by anybody's standard.

His repeat score: 3,048 . While the drop is relatively small on a percentage basis and may even fall within the expected rate of error for heart scans (which tends to be <2% at this high a score), I told Charlie that it still represented a huge success. Not only did he not increase his score by the expected 30% per year, he also brought a charging locomotive to a rapid stop.

Next year, Charlie is targeting a big drop. Given the tools he now has available, I'm optimistic that he will succeed.

Watch for the Track Your Plaque May, 2007 Newsletter in which we will detail Charlie's story further.