Interview with world heart scan authority, Dr. John Rumberger

Dr. John Rumberger has, from its start, been a good friend of the Track Your Plaque program.

We are very proud to have his friendship. Dr. Rumberger is not only a world-renowned scientist in the world of cardiac imaging and heart scanning, but also a humanitarian and gentleman. From the very first day I met Dr. Rumberger many years ago, when he answered my many silly and naive questions about heart scans, I came to appreciate his deep and genuine interest in improving the world of heart disease detection.

I tracked Dr. Rumberger down from his busy schedule, now on a new project at the Princeton Longevity Center in Princeton, New Jersey.

TYP: Dr. Rumberger, we understand that your career has taken a new direction. Can you tell us about your current project?

Dr. Rumberger: I have not really taken a new direction, but further expanded on my opportunities.

I remain Medical Director of PrevaHealth Wellness Diagnostic Center (formerly Healthwise) in Columbus, Ohio. At that center, we see patients referred by their doctors for further refinement in cardiac risk stratification using heart and body scanning. However, by only doing scans alone there are limited opportunities for me to react in a meaningful way with the individual patients and thus I miss opportunities to do direct one-on-one teaching.

Currently, I spend most of my time in Princeton, NJ as Director of Cardiac Imaging for the Princeton Longevity Center. At the PLC, we perform comprehensive medical examinations along with screening CT scans, blood work, fitness and diet consultation to affect a more thorough one-on-one experience. Each patient then receives a comprehensive de-briefing.

In addition, since I have been involved with cardiac CT for now nearly 24 years, the PLC also affords me an opportunity to develop a CT coronary angiography training program for cardiologists and radiologists ( Together, these new efforts are merely an extension of my interests in prevention, patient care, and teaching.

TYP: Based on your book, The Way Diet, we understand that you advocate gravitating away from processed foods and incorporating more nuts, monounsaturated oils, lean proteins like fish, and a reduction in processed carbohydrates. You’ve also been a proponent of the Mediterranean diet that demonstrated a dramatic reduction in cardiovascular events in the Lyon Heart Study.

Has your philosophy or practice regarding nutritional strategies evolved or changed in any way since your book was published?

Dr. Rumberger: No, the strategies put forward in The Way Diet have, if anything, been reinforced by further and further research in selecting foods that are naturally high in anti-oxidants with lean sources of protein and reduced intake of processed sugar-containing preparations. The book, however, is what I call a ‘philosophy’ book which looks at three major aspects: proper diet, adequate exercise, and stress management. I also include some recipes which follow the dietary plans, but are done using ingredients that are commonly found in the average home.

TYP: We regard you as the source of much of the wisdom in heart scanning as the basis for early heart disease detection. Much of the original and subsequent scientific data, in fact, bears your name. Can you touch on some of the new directions your research has taken over the past couple of years?

Dr. Rumberger: We have come a long way from the beginning and there is a long way to go to get this incorporated into routine preventive care in the United States.

The most recent research has provided not so much more information as continuing to reinforce the old research. As I always say: if your research continues to show the same thing, then maybe there is a clear pattern here! The biggest challenge is getting this message into the mainstream and also trying to get cardiologists (and internists and, in fact, the general public) away from ‘stenosis’ detection to define the real cause of heart attacks (plaque) and into ‘plaque detection.’ This is where basic heart scanning has the greatest potential to reduce the expanding burden of heart disease.

You may be aware of our SHAPE initiave in which an international group of cardiologists and scientists have advocated getting a heart scan FIRST and then, if abnormal, checking your cholesterol values; rather than using cholesterol (which is valuable, but highly variable in predictive power) to determine who needs medications or further testing. The heart scan can define the current level of plaque and THEN you can determine what to do about it. [See the Track Your Plaque report on the release of the Shape Guidelines at SHAPE Guidelines]

TYP: We understand that you are performing CT coronary angiography in your center. What are your thoughts on the role of CTA in 1) screening for coronary disease, and 2) its role in the diagnostic process?

Dr. Rumberger: CT coronary angiography (CTA) is an incredible method to really define the extent of disease, beyond just coronary calcium. Its role is most appropriate in ruling OUT a significant ‘stenosis’ while really defining the absence or presence (and thus ‘how much’) of plaque. It is the ultimate ‘plaque detector’. CTA is best used in patients who have some symptoms, but in whom the clinician feels may NOT have clear cardiac chest pain. By risk-stratifying using CTA, we also gain information about heart size, heart function, whether there is prior heart damage, as well as other important information. This then becomes a very universal means to risk-stratifying individuals.

TYP: Thanks for your wonderful insights, Dr. Rumberger! We look forward to hearing about your future projects and research directions.

About John Rumberger, PhD, MD:

Dr. Rumberger is among the world's leading authorities on cardiac and vascular imaging using EBT and CT Scanning. Dr. Rumberger was among the first to pioneer the use of new CT technologies for heart scanning. He currently serves as Director of Cardiac Imaging at the Princeton Longevity Center, Princeton, NJ.

Dr. Rumberger is formerly Professor of Medicine and Consultant in the Department of Cardiovascular Diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Rumberger received his doctorate in engineering from The Ohio State University in 1976 and graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1978.

During his over 20 year career as a clinician, educator, and researcher, Dr. Rumberger has published nearly 500 scientific papers and book chapters. He has lectured worldwide on EBT, early heart disease diagnosis, and wellness. He is an Established Investigator of the American Heart Association and a Founding Member of the International Society of Atherosclerosis Imaging. Dr Rumberger is an active Reviewer for the Journal of the American Medical Association, Archives of Internal Medicine, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Comments (1) -

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    11/3/2010 6:46:21 PM |

    In addition, since I have been involved with cardiac CT for now nearly 24 years, the PLC also affords me an opportunity to develop a CT coronary angiography training program for cardiologists and radiologists ( Together, these new efforts are merely an extension of my interests in prevention, patient care, and teaching.