The Nation's Health + [Niacin]

Heart disease reversal: Don't neglect the basics in your heart disease reversal program

Carl loved new ideas and novel approaches. You could tell by the sheer number of nutritional supplements he took. His list had grown to 18 different supplements over the past two years.

Carl came to me for coronary plaque regression. Lipoprotein analysis did uncover several previously unsuspected abnormalties, most notably small LDL particles and lipoprotein(a). In addition, Carl's LDL cholesterol ranged between 111 mg-156 mg and he was clearly hypertensive, with systolic blood pressures consistently around 150-160. (Recall that people with Lp(a) are more prone to hypertension.)

Carl was more than willing to have his lipoprotein(a) reduced. We did so with niacin and testosterone and the level dropped to near zero. Likewise, we corrected his small LDL pattern with niacin, fish oil, and a reduction in processed carbohydrates.

But Carl really resisted doing much about his LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure. I got the sense that these "boring" issues simply didn't interest him. After all, LDL cholesterol and blood pressure were the stuff of TV commercials and the popular conversation propagated by drug companies.

Carl's follow-up heart scan, however, finally persuaded him: a 24% increase in one year, likely due to the neglect of the basic issues.

I liken Carl's case to being like the teenager with a new car who polishes the paint to a bright finish, puts new wheels and tires on it, spruces up the interior with various doodads--but then fails to change the oil. Sometimes it's the most basic issues that can diminish your success.

Issues like LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure aren't the most glamorous, but they do count in your coronary plaque control program.