The Nation's Health + power

Heart scans: When is a heart scan score of 400 better than 200?

Imagine two people.

Tom is a 50-year old man. Tom's initial heart scan score is 500 --a bad score that carries a 5% or more risk for heart attack per year.

Harry is also 50 years old. His heart scan score is 100 --also a concerning score but not with the same dangers of Tom's much higher score.

Tom follows a powerful heart disease prevention program like the Track Your Plaque program. He achieves the 60:60:60 lipid targets; chooses healthy foods; takes fish oil; raises his blood vitamin D level to >50 ng/ml, etc. One year later, Tom's heart scan score is 400 , a 20% reduction from his starting score.

Harry, on the other hand, doesn't understand the implications of his score. Neither does his doctor. He's casually provided a prescription for a cholesterol drug by his doctor but nothing else. One year later, Harry's heart scan score is 200 , a doubling (100% increase) of the original score.

At this point, we're left with Tom having a score of 400 , Harry with a score of 200 . That is, Tom has twice the score, or 200 points higher, compared to Harry. Who's better off?

Tom is better off. Even though he has a significantly higher score, Tom's plaque is regressing. It is therefore quiescent with its components being extracted, inflammation subsiding, the artery is in a more relaxed state, etc.

Harry's plaque, in contrast, is active and growing: inflammatory cells are abundant and producing enzymes that degrade supportive tissue, excessive constrictive factors are constantly causing the artery to pinch partially closed, fatty materials are accumulating and triggering a cascade of abnormal responses.

This is therefore a peculiar situation in which a higher score is actually better than a lower score. It reflects the power of adhering to a preventive program. It also demonstrates how two scans are better than one because they show the rate of increase given a particular preventive approach.

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