|Winning Your Personal War with Heart Disease:|
The Track Your Plaque 5 Stages of Success
Successfully conquering coronary heart disease takes place in several stages.
Completely reversing heart disease to a achieve a zero heart scan score
is not necessary to lead a happy and safe life.
Here are the five stages of success that we observe in the Track Your Plaque program
and how each one reduces your heart attack risk.
We all know that if we do nothing, heart scan scores skyrocket.
On average, heart scan scores increase at the rate of 30% per year. For your retirement account or mutual fund, that would be a fabulous return, sufficient to earn you a front page feature on Money Magazine and a chance to hobnob with Bill Gates.
But it's not your money we are talking about. It's dreaded coronary atherosclerotic plaque. Growth like that only leads to catastrophe. Thus, a score of 100 increases to 130 after one year, 169 the next year, 219.7 the year after that, then 285.6 . . . until catastrophe erupts in the form of chest pain symptoms or similar sign of poor coronary blood flow to the heart, and heart attack.
As we like to say, growing plaque is active plaque. Studies have borne this phenomenon out: If permitted to grow at this rate, plaque growth and activity continue, including inflammatory responses within plaque, oxidative processes, accumulation of fatty materials, all culminating at some point in plaque rupture and heart attack.
In the Track Your Plaque program, we fuss endlessly about gaining control over coronary plaque growth. In fact, we hope to achieve reversal of plaque by way of a reduction in heart scan score. And it can be done.
Unfortunately, not everybody does it. Many of the participants in the program drop their score, often dramatically, in the first year of participation. Others require two or three years, occasionally longer. Some never succeed in reducing their score, but instead have to be content with slowing growth, what we call "deceleration." The people who only succeed in decelerating growth are among the minority. But even deceleration can provide substantial heart attack risk reduction.
So, how exactly do we define success in the Track Your Plaque program? We use The Five Stages of Track Your Plaque Success.
Stage 1 Deceleration: Slowing plaque growth to less than 30% per year
It's an awfully unambitious goal, but a modest effort can slow growth to below the "natural" and expected rate of 30% annual growth.
Surprisingly, this is the rate of growth in many people who take statin cholesterol drugs as a sole strategy (Like Lipitor®, Zocor®, etc.)—plaque growth is slowed but hardly ideal.
Slowing growth to less than 30% per year is a generally unsatisfactory result in the Track Your Plaque program, one that can be improved on substantially, but it is a start. While this is clearly an improvement over natural or accelerated plaque growth, substantial risk for heart attack persists with this level of growth. Should you achieve this level of limited success, you and your doctor should ask, "What substantial improvements can be made to gain better control?"
Stage 2 Deceleration : Slowing plaque growth to less than 20% per year
Just a bit better than stage one, growth of plaque is slowed to less than 20%, but remains above 10% per year where more substantial risk improvement occurs.
This range, like that of Stage 1, is a typical result for someone who does nothing else but adds a statin cholesterol drug and follows a conventional (e.g., American Heart Association) nutritional program. That's why we do not endorse this conventional approach and, in fact, criticize it for its less than optimal results as compared to the Track Your Plaque program.
While existing data does indeed suggest that achieving stage two plaque growth deceleration modestly reduces risk of heart attack and procedures, there's plenty of room for improvement.
Stage 3 Deceleration: Slowing plaque growth to less than 10% per year
Now we're starting to have a real impact.
When plaque is growing at less then 10%, it obviously hasn't stopped. But it has slowed considerably from its "natural" expected rate of growth.
Although not a perfect result, give yourself a pat on the back. Rates of less 10% per year plaque growth are indeed associated with substantial reduction in heart attack.
Achieving this rate of growth should simply prompt you and your doctor to congratulate yourselves and then ask, "What could be done to do just a little bit better?"
Stage 4 Zero Growth: Zero percent plaque growth per year
This means that plaque growth has halted.
Curiously, even though plaque has not reversed, zero percent plaque growth is associated with dramatic reduction in risk for heart attack. This is probably due to the fact that, while calcium has not changed, some of the active elements in plaque, like inflammatory cells and fatty material, have been markedly reduced, resulting in reduced potential for plaque rupture.
Zero change in heart scan makes for some curious situations. What if, for instance, you begin with a high score of 700. On your prevention program, two years later your score remains at 700. Are you any better off? Or are you still at the same place you started and risk is no better, no worse?
In fact, risk has been substantially reduced even though your score remains unchanged. This is because the active elements in plaque have been suppressed and the likelihood of plaque rupture leading to heart attack is dramatically reduced. In our experience and in published experience, likelihood of heart attack is close to zero.
This is a key finding of enormous benefit to persons with high heart scan scores who contemplate starting on the Track Your Plaque program. Score reversal to lower levels is clearly more difficult for those who start with higher scores. This finding suggests that simply halting score growth provides dramatic risk reduction independent of starting score.
Stage 5 Reversal: Reducing your heart scan score
This is the "holy grail", the goal we all seek.
It's the prize that has tantalized the hopeful who've been misled into dead ends like the Ornish program, chelation, and other blind alleys.
When achieved in the Track Your Plaque program, it is truly an enormous personal success that we would equate with graduating college, getting married, or being cured of cancer.
Dropping your heart scan score signifies that coronary atherosclerotic plaque has reversed—it is smaller in volume. All the components of plaque have been reduced, including inflammatory cells, fatty tissues, and calcium. It also means that plaque has been essentially inactivated, its potential for rupture virtually shut down.
It also means that risk for heart attack is virtually zero. (In truth, nobody's risk is truly absolute zero, even a 20-year old. But a reduced heart scan score gets you as close to zero as humanly possible.)
Is a reduced score really that much better than zero percent growth? You'd think so, but the risk for heart attack in both groups is so low that it's tricky to make the comparison. Time will tell after tens of thousands of people have followed this path. (In other words, when an event is statistically tiny, say, <0.1% or 1 in 1000, then it requires very large numbers of people to detect a difference among groups, since cardiac events rare.)
We have never witnessed a heart attack or deteriorating heart symptoms in someone with a reduced heart scan score. In other words, in all practicality, heart disease has been turned off.
So, what should I shoot for?
Of course, Stage 5 Reversal should be everyone's goal but that is simply not practical. No cure is 100% effective for everyone. Even those practitioners who, like Track Your Plaque, maintain a position on the cutting edge of medical technology still do not fully understand every heart disease cause and mechanism. It is also a fact that some people are unable to tolerate certain drugs, supplements, and lifestyle changes, and, sadly, there are still others who simply choose to be non-compliant. For example, Track Your Plaque and a host of others can extol the virtues of smoking cessation but we can't make you stop. We can provide mountains of new evidence for supplements like Vitamin D, but we cannot make you take it.
Our list of people stopping or reducing their heart scan score is growing rapidly. For those who cannot achieve this level for the reasons mentioned, Stage 3 Deceleration, or slowing plaque growth to less than 10% per year is still an admirable result that translates into marked reduction in heart attack risk.
If your results fall into stages 1 or 2 and plaque continues to grow 20% or more per year, that is still better than nothing, but some serious reconsideration of your strategies or adherence need to be made.
There are many levels of success in the Track Your Plaque program. All of them reduce your risk of heart attack and almost everyone can achieve Stages 3, 4 or 5. In the end, only you can decide how much risk you are willing to live with and how hard you are willing to work at it!