The Nation's Health + [Track Your Plaque]

Track Your Plaque: A second chance

Stewart had a CT heart scan in 2004. Score: 475 .

As always in the Track Your Plaque program, Stewart had his lipoproteins assessed. Among his patterns were LDL 157 mg/dl, severe small LDL, and the (post-prandial, or after-eating) IDL. Stewart was also "pre-diabetic" with a blood sugar of 123 mg/dl. Blood pressure was also a major issue. Although initially concerned, life and distractions got in the way, and Stewart's attentions drifted away.

Two years of a lackadaisical effort and Stewart's heart scan score was 600 , a 26% increase. Not as bad as it could have been doing nothing (i.e., 30% per year), but still far from great. But, even with the increase in score, we still really didn't get Stewart's attention. He went about his business with a very lax dietary program, overindulging in breads, crackers, goodies, hot dogs, etc., and following a virtually non-existent exercise program except for playing golf once or twice a week.

Unfortunately, Stewart started having pains in his chest with very minimal efforts like climbing a single flight of stairs. His stress test proved abnormal. Stewart then received a stent in his left anterior descending coronary and another in his circumflex. His right coronary artery had a 40-50% blockage, close to requiring a stent.

I stressed to Stewart that this had been preventable. Should motivation remain unchanged, the next step would be bypass surgery.

I think I finally succeeded in getting Stewart's attention. He found the prospect of a bypass operation a lot more concrete than the idea of progression or regression of coronary plaque. So Stewart is being given a second chance. Unfortunately, we will no longer be able to track Stewart's plaque very effectively, since two of three arteries now contain stents, and only the right coronary remains scorable.

I hope Stewart succeeds. But I sure wish he had done this earlier. He had realistic hopes of never requiring stents or bypass surgery.

Learn from Stewart's mistakes. Attention to your program requires vigilance. You can't ignore the causes of your coronary plaque for any length of time without it catching up to you. But seize your first and best chance.