The Nation's Health + [Heart disease prevention]

Heart disease prevention: Prevention: Bad news in bits and pieces

Jan clearly did not want to talk about her heart scan. Her score of 502 came as a shock to her. After all, she'd survived breast cancer just a year earlier, having been through dozens of radiation treatments, chemotherapy, not the mention the emotional upheaval.

Now I was telling Jan that she had a very high heart scan score with a heart attack risk of 5% per year. Then we got to her lipoprotein patterns: Jan had several striking abnormalities, including a misleading LDL cholesterol that underestimated her true LDL by nearly 100% (LDL particle number), small LDL, and the dreaded lipoprotein(a).

"I can't handle this! Why did I get the stupid scan in the first place?!"

Giving her a chance to collect her emotions, I discussed how, even though this business can be frightening, it's far--FAR--better than the alternative: heart attack at 3 am, rush to the hospital, stents, bypass surgery, etc. Or, death for the >30% of people who don't make it to the hospital in time.

That's why I often tell people that prevention of disease is bad news in bits and pieces. But it's a lot more manageable this way. Coronary plaque is a controllable process. You don't have much control in the midst of a heart attack.