If you have a CT heart scan score (also called coronary calcium score), what effect do statin cholesterol drugs have on stopping or slowing the increase in score? (Increasing scores pose increasing risk for heart attack and other cardiac events.)
NONE. If you do nothing at all, the score increases by 25% per year, on average. If you take a statin drug, aspirin, and follow a low-fat diet, what my colleagues call “optimal medical therapy,” the score increases . . . 25% per year—no difference. Yet this is the “solution” that conventional doctors push on their patients, a “treatment” that yields little to no benefit.
The real tragedy? There are a number of easily accessible, inexpensive, and effective strategies that can stop the increase in heart scan scores, even reduce the score and, with it, reduce or eliminate risk for heart disease—but the answers won’t come from your doctor.
Let’s talk about whether statin cholesteral drugs can reduce a heart scan score. Statin cholesterol drugs are drugs like Lipitor®, Crestor®, Zocor®, or other drugs, non-statin drugs that reduce total LDL cholesterol. Heart scan scores are sometimes called coronary calcium scores, and all they are is an index, or gauge, of the volume of atherosclerotic plaque in your heart’s arteries — the stuff that ruptures, and causes heart attacks, or worsens, grows, and causes chest pain that leads to things like stress testing, heart catheterization, stent implantation, and bypass surgery.
Screen text: Heart scan scores increase 25% per year (on average)
Let’s say you have a heart scan score of 500, and let’s say you do nothing about it — you go about your business, go to work, etc. You come back a year later, a score of 500, increases to 625. If you continue to do nothing, a year later the score is 781. With each passing year, you are closer and closer to heart attack, sudden cardiac death, need for procedures. Doing nothing is very unwise, right, because the score will increase inevitably
25% per year on average.
Now, what if you took what my colleagues call “optimal medical therapy”, which is a low fat diet — low saturated fat, low total fat, lots of healthy whole grains (they say), a high dose of a statin drug like Lipitor® 80 milligrams, aspirin, maybe a beta blocker like metroprolol, don’t smoke, and exercise in moderation.
How fast will your heart scan score increase?</br />…25% per year.
It has no impact, at all, on the rate of growth of atherosclerotic plaque.
Oddly, my colleagues, the so-called experts in this, agreed some years back that because they didn’t know how to stop that inevitable 25% per year increase in scores, we shouldn’t repeat the heart scans to see it increase. Instead, they actually said this, wait for those people to have their heart attacks or develop symptoms, and then deal with an acute event — in the cath lab for instance, to abort a heart attack, or implant stents, or send them to bypass — of course ignoring the fact that about half the people who have a heart attack never make it to the hospital, they die en-route.
So that’s a lousy solution. That’s no solution at all. I rejected all conventional notions of what causes cardiovascular risk, and what causes CT heart scan scores to increase. It took many years to figure this out, but it led me to develop all the strategies that now include my Wheat Belly and Undoctored programs — such as:
- We reject cholesterol testing. Instead we do lipoprotein testing — NMR lipoprotein testing, to uncover how much small LDL particles you have. That’s the real cause, not LDL cholesterol (which is a crude indirect marker). We want the actual cause, which is an excess of small LDL particles, which readily cause growth of atherosclerotic plaque.
- Lipoprotein testing also uncovers metabolic distortions, especially after eating rises in VLDL particles. That’s the stuff that also causes small LDL.
- It led to uncovering the fact that vitamin D restoration has an enormous impact on slowing the progression of coronary calcium scores, or even reducing the scores.
- Fish oil plays a big role.
- Magnesium restoration: because we all drink filtered water and lack magnesium. That plays a role.
- Iodine and thyroid optimization plays a role, because thyroid dysfunction is rampant. As many as a third of all Americans now have thyroid disease in some form. It might be a high TSH, might be a low free T3, but it comes in many different forms, largely due to the proliferation of industrial compounds that block thyroid hormone activity.
- And then lastly, efforts to cultivate a healthy microbiome; that includes such things as high potency multi-species probiotic, enthusiastic consumption of fermented foods, and lots and lots of prebiotic fibers.
That simple menu of strategies reduces heart scan scores in the majority of people — no statin drug required.
So this idea that you must take a statin in order to stop progression of your heart scan is complete, utter, nonsense. We helped publish these data many years ago. It’s been known for about two decades that statin drugs have no impact the rate of progression of CT heart scan scores. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. If your doctor says “there’s nothing more we can do”, what he’s really saying is “I have been willfully ignorant of the factors that really can put a stop the progression of atherosclerotic plaque. I’m going to ignore vitamin D. I’m going to ignore the wonderful strategies surrounding the microbiome. I’m going to ignore the fact that small LDL particles are the real cause for coronary atherosclerosis, not LDL cholesterol.”
If you want to take this conversation further, I invite you to join me in my Wheat Belly and Undoctored conversations. My most recent update of the entire program is now available in a single resource that I called the Wheat Belly Revised and Expanded edition, that’s now available in bookstores. It takes all the lessons learned over the last many years, all the messages I deliver through about eight different books, all put in one book that’s called the Wheat Belly Revised and Expanded edition, and of course subscribe to my YouTube channel.