The Nation's Health + [Lipoproteins]

Lipoproteins: I'm just right!

Ben is an energetic 45-year old entrepreneur. He started his own security alarm company and has, with tremendous hard work and long hours, built it into a successful local business. Despite his long hours, he found time to coach his son's football team and help with raising his 3 kids.

Ben's life took a detour when he had urgent bypass surgery at age 39. Just three years later, the chest pains and fatigue he'd experienced before bypass returned. Another heart catheterization revealed that all of his bypass grafts except one had closed. Three stents were implanted to salvage his original coronary arteries.

That's when I met Ben. Shockingly (perhaps I should know by now!), Ben was taking Lipitor and had been advised to follow a low-fat diet. That was the full extent of his heart disease prevention program. The burning question that I wanted answered was "Why did a 39-year old man have heart disease?".

Our analysis uncovered a smorgasbord of hidden patterns. You name it, Ben had it: postprandial (after-eating) patterns like IDL, low HDL, and, most notably, small LDL and lipoprotein(a). That's why Ben had heart disease as a 39-year old man--plain and simple.

We proceeded to correct all of his patterns. But the one aspect of his program that he struggled with: weight. At 5 ft 9 inches, Ben started at 285 lbs before bypass. He did manage to get to 270 after his surgery. I told him that, if he was going to get full control of his small LDL pattern, he needed to get to <210 lbs, perhaps even lower. Without substantial weight loss, he would never seize full control over coronary plaque.

Ben was satisfied that we had identified the hidden causes of his heart disease. But he remained skeptical that that magnitude of weight loss was necessary. Built like a football player, he looked stocky but not outright fat. He got down to 240 lbs but then he decided that he looked too skinny and just went right back up to 250-260 in weight.

At a weight of 250, this puts Ben's BMI (body mass index) at around 37, way over the cut-off of 30 for obesity. Now, the BMI can be misleading in people with larger frames and more muscle. But Ben undeniably had a generous abdomen, encasing the visceral fat that drives small LDL.

Unfortunately, Ben remained skeptical until I put three more stents into his right coronary artery last evening.

Small LDL is a powerful activator of lipoprotein(a). In other words, there's something peculiarly evil about the combination of small LDL and lipoprotein(a) that brings out the worst in both. You can't correct just one or the other. You've got to correct both. Don't learn this lesson the hard way.

I think (hope) that Ben is on track to get to around 200 lbs.