Surprise: Heart scan score reversal

Gene is a jovial, fun-loving railroad worker who didn't take anything too seriously--including his heart scan score of 767.

This score placed Gene solidly in the 99th percentile (in the worst 1%). It came as no surprise to Gene. After all, his father died at age 36 of a heart attack and Gene's brother died at 60 of a heart attack. So Gene took life as it came and long ago decided not to fret about his fate.

But Gene's wife prodded him and prodded him to get the heart scan. That's when I met him.

Of course, Gene had been prescribed Lipitor by his doctor for a somewhat high LDL cholesterol. Our assessment uncovered several additional patterns including lipoprotein (a), small LDL, a pre-diabetic tendency, and a severe deficiency of vitamin D.

At 224 lb and 5 ft 6 inches in height, I felt that Gene was at least 40 lbs overweight.

One year later and with reasonable correction of all his patterns except weight loss and Gene's heart scan score was 590--a reduction of 23%!

Gene was thrilled, as was I. But, frankly, I was also surprised. Dramatic regression of coronary plaque tends to not occur so readily as long as pre-diabetic patterns persist and weight is not controlled.

The lesson: Often the only way to tell if you've achieved control or regression of coronary plaque is to have another heart scan. The tremendous variation in human responses never ceases to amaze me.