The Nation's Health + [Heart disease reversal]

Heart disease reversal: A curious case of regression

Randi came to me at age 43. Before I'd met her, she'd undergone two heart scans about one year apart. The initial score was 57 --not terribly high, but very high for a 41-year old, pre-menopausal female. Recall that rarely do women have any heart scan score above zero before age 50. Randi's 2nd scan had yielded a score of 72 , a 27% increase.

Randi even had her lipoproteins assessed and she had the dreaded Lp(a). So when I met her, we discussed the possible choices in Lp(a) treatment: niacin and estrogens as primary treatment, along with LDL reduction to rock-bottom numbers, along with adjunctive DHEA, almonds, ground flaxseed, and fish oil. Sandi was okay with the adjunctive treatments and was already slender and active (BMI <25), and did not show Lp(a)'s evil partner, small LDL. But Randi had no interest in estrogens, even bio-identical preparations, because of the usual uncertainties associated with estrogen replacement. She also proved to be one of the people truly intolerant to anything but the most minute dose of niacin, experiencing prolonged flushing and abdominal cramps with any dose >250 mg.

Randi even attempted a trial of the Mathias Rath concoction of high-dose vitamin C, lysine, and proline as treatment for Lp(a), but we saw no effect on Lp(a).

Unfortunately, this left Randi's Lp(a) essentially uncorrected. Another scan one year later: 90 , another 25% increase. 18 months after that, another scan: 120 , a 30% increase.

Now 47-years old, Randi had resigned herself to not being able to control her plaque. We'd run out of options. At that point, I'd started to have everyone's vitamin D blood level assessed and then replaced with vitamin D. I did this with Randi, too.

A year after her last scan, she underwent another. The score: 92, a 23% reduction --substantial reversal following a course of unrelenting progression.

Randi and I, of course, both rejoiced with this unexpected success. But it raised some interesting questions: How important is Lp(a) when vitamin D is normalized and small LDL is not a part of the picture? How consistent with regression be with this strategy over time? Would normalization of vitamin D have stopped plaque from becoming established in the first place?

I hope these issues will clarify over time. For now, I'm thrilled with Randi's success. She remains on her present, "incomplete", though successful program.

Note: I would not ordinarily advise a young woman to undergo serial heart scanning with this frequency. Randi had unusual access to a scan center through a relationship with the staff. I am nonetheless grateful for the lessons her experience have taught us.