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DH has plaque in his coronary arteries - now what? UPDATE #26

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 
My husband (40) just got his results back from a CT scan he had done to measure the amount of plaque in his coronary arteries. The test yields a score called the Coronary Artery Calcium Score or CACS. His CACS is 95. According to his doctor, this puts him at moderate risk for a heart attack within the next 5 years and above a score of 101 = heart disease. His score is way too close to that for comfort.

He had the test done because he has the worst family history - men on both sides of his family have had triple or quadruple bypass surgeries by the age of 60 because of coronary heart disease. So he turned 40 and I made him go get a big physical and workup and now this. (I mean, I get that the whole point of getting the physical was to find this out now while maybe we can still do something about it, but he's also feeling so down about this - he thinks of himself as fit and healthy. )

Here are the things his doctor wants him to do:

1. Maintain weight. (My husband is a healthy weight)
2. Take 81 mg of aspirin per day.
3. Take 1000 mg of fish oil per day.
4. Exercise regularly. (My husband walks to/from the train every day and is active in the yard and garden, but he does not "work out".)
5. Start a cholesterol lowering drug in the class of statins (e.g., simvastatin) to be taken every day for the rest of his life.

My diet and the kids' diet is fairly traditional foods focused. All organic, mostly local, pastured meat and dairy etc. My husband does better than this than many men, but frankly has a long way to go diet wise. Compared to most people, he eats well, but I look at what he eats and see many improvements that need to be made.

Questions....

Can you reverse plaque on the arteries? How?

Are there any supplements or alternative treatments we should be looking at?

What is the deal with saturated fat and plaque on the arteries... we eat A LOT of staturated fat - in the form of grassfed milk and cheese, pastured beef etc. In fact, we only buy whole milk, real cheeses, etc. and I use pastured butter liberally in our cooking. I am now experiencing a lot of self-doubt that maybe all this fat isn't good for him. Maybe for some people it turns into plaques?? By comparison, my cholesterol is 146 and HDL is 97. So is the problem the bad fats I know he DOES eat (like I said, he sort-of follows the way we eat but also enjoys slices of pizza, ice cream, etc., not to mention he travels a lot and so eats in restaurants in hotels etc.).

Any other wisdom about dealing with young(ish) otherwise healthy people who have plaque in their arteries?

UPDATE #26
post #2 of 52
Its not so much the saturated fat in the diet. Diet only contributes 20% of the cholesterol; not really that much. Its worth trying to reduce cholesterol in the diet, but it doesn't really help much.

Mainly its carbohydrates. Even the good kinds. It isn't so much the amount of cholesterol circulating in the bloodstream, its the "stickiness" of the arteries. Insulin (from eating carbs) makes the arteries more sticky, collecting the plaque more readily. In some people, this tendency towards stickiness is genetic (sounds like your DH). If he could be very careful to reduce carbs to 25 or 30% of his diet, it should help.

Also a glass of red wine daily is supposed to help "scrub" the arteries. But red wine also contributes carbs, so you have to make sure you count those carbs when you're calculating your 30%.
post #3 of 52
He has to watch his diet and activity level. I get patients fresh from the cardiac cath lab and most of them have been using fish oil or statins or a combination of both for years. The problem? Usually a crappy diet, inactivity and sometimes genetics. It's as if they thought meds/fish oil could solve everything without effort on their part. I will say that the vast majority of our patients are men. Some patients change everything, some change nothing and keep coming back for more and more stents/angioplastys.

I've never read anything about insulin causing platelet aggregation. What I have read is type II diabetics/insulin resistance (cells aren't responding to insulin as they should) increasing platelet aggregation in studies but the reason was not understood.

Any improvement in diet is a step in the right direction.

I highly encourage statins IF combined with a change in lifestyle/diet. If not it's a waste of time and money.
post #4 of 52
Here are the things his doctor wants him to do:

1. Maintain weight. (My husband is a healthy weight)
2. Take 81 mg of aspirin per day.
3. Take 1000 mg of fish oil per day.
4. Exercise regularly. (My husband walks to/from the train every day and is active in the yard and garden, but he does not "work out".)
5. Start a cholesterol lowering drug in the class of statins (e.g., simvastatin) to be taken every day for the rest of his life.

I would not do any of that! Omg the asprin and statins are sooo bad....

Do your own research but here is what we would do.

Serrapeptase
miracle mineral solution
red yeast rice
green smoothies daily
flax oil
post #5 of 52
Just some thoughts....rather then fish oil, try fermented cod liver oil, and start adding in raw coconut oil to the diet.
And most importantly, the outside of the home diet must be eliminated.
Pack lunches and coolers of food for travel times instead.
Teach him how to shop in grocery stores for food needs on the road as well.

And make sure all dairy is in raw and raw/cultured form.
I have heard from many sources, that raw garlic is a good scrubber.
Mince it fine, and swallow with water, as that is the only way it work.

I "think" saturated fat in the arteries is going to end up there because it is getting caught in the plaque.
Anytime he is consuming vege oils, he is adding to the plaque as well.
A good way to relate that, follows.
Go to any restaurant or home that uses vege oils for cooking. What will you see?
Vents and stove tops that are covered in a VERY hard to remove layer of grease.
Its doing the same thing inside the body
post #6 of 52
The plaque is calcium, right? I've read studies that talk about K2 and calcium utilization, the vitamin K yahoo group has a Files section that has a lot of studies on K2. The yahoo group is about kids with autism, but anyone can join and they've got a nice collection of articles, and I thought there was some heart health/calcium utilization stuff there. Some of the WAPF articles might have citations on heart stuff and K2 and you can follow them back to the original studies and see what's up.

I could also be wrong about this, but I'd read about folate and the MTHFR gene mutation. I thought early heart problems were one problem associated with a variant of MTHFR. Some people need more dietary folate than others, 800mcg vs the 400mcg for most of us, and folic acid doesn't work the same way as folate (because of this gene--for many of us, folic acid is fine). I could be remembering wrong, but I'd do some reading on this. There is a genetic test for it if the doc is willing to do it. Google aspirin and MTHFR as well, because I think aspirin is involved, but it does things somewhat backward.
post #7 of 52
Plaque is a combination of fat, cholesterol and calcium mostly.

Statins will help to reduce the size of the plaques and will also help to stabilise them, making them less likely to rupture (plaque rupture is the main cause of heart attack).

It sounds to me like he has been given good advice considering his significant risk factors. He probably does need to reduce the amount of saturated fat in his diet but he doesn't need to cut it out completely. Do you cut the visible fat off meat and that sort of thing? If not that might be a place to start. And the junk food of course.

Oats are great for lowering cholesterol, would he eat them regularly? The other thing is Metamucil, taken at a lower dose than for constipation The instructions are on the label.

As far as the exercise goes he doesn't need to "work out" as such. A brisk 30 minute walk 5-6 days/week is fine but, there are lots of benefits to maintaining lean muscle mass. He doesn't need to lift weights but could maybe add some push ups, squats etc, things just using his own body weight. This will help him maintain a healthy weight as well.

All the best with it. It is scary but sounds like you know all the right things to do.

Regards
Kate
post #8 of 52
There is a history of heart disease in our family. Even though I'm skin and bones my cholesterol has always been sky high no matter what I did. My mom is the same way.

Then I got Multiple Sclerosis. I followed a modified version of the 'Swank Diet' for MS fairly religiously for over a year and my cholesterol dropped from 250 to 140 on re-check. I allowed myself a little more of the good fats than it calls for but strictly eliminated ALL (and I do mean ALL saturated fat other than what was in turkey and chicken breast or other allowed items - no more than 15g per day.) I cut out all dairy, all red meat, etc. This meant no cheese, no chocolate, no milk, etc. I allowed myself more of the allowed fats if I felt I needed more energy. I even followed this diet during pregnancy eating LOTS of the allowed fats. I was incredibly healthy & gained about 29-30 lbs, so you definitely don't have to starve on this diet.

The diet went completely out the window after DS was born due to nursing... and is still out the window due to DS' allergies, our funky elimination diet and my inability to keep weight on while breastfeeding. But, in any case, the point is that I became a believer that diet could have a dramatic effect on lowering my cholesterol. It might not work for everyone but it did for me.
post #9 of 52
I will chime in here wearing my psychologist hat.....sometimes a barrier to treatment is what we "think" we need to be doing or the percieved sacrifices we think we are making. For example, it may be really important for your dh to recognize that it does not matter what every other 40 year old male is doing. For some, being overweight and sedentary may not have the same impact on their vascular system....but for him, he has to make the changes that HIS body requires right now and it sounds like the diet is the first place to start. It can also be hard for him to get the info from you....is there a nutritionist he can consult with for some psychoeducation regarding food choices (my dad is going through this and while he is intelligent he is far from understanding the way specific foods impact his system). And eating away from home is hard...but it can be changed. And while having saturated fat probably didn't cause his current situation, maybe there is a way for him to reduce the percent of his daily calories from fat...increase whole grains and veggies, etc.

I did a quick search on aspirin and it may not be the wonder drug we thought (increases internal bleeding with minimal impact on heart disease according to a recent UK study).

While it sounds scary, at least you have information and he has an opportunity to make life changes and prevent the cycle that seems to have impacted most men in his family.
post #10 of 52
There is some good information about how cholesterol operates in your body in "What Your Doctor Doesn't Know About Nutritional Medicine May Be Killing You" by Ray D. Strand MD. His website is: http://www.raystrand.com/ I found this book in the library.

This is not your typical conventional doctor's outlook on cholesterol...ie. let's check you until you show high cholesterol then let's give you drugs. Instead he's got a lot of good information about why cholesterol attaches to arteries, and using nutrition for prevention and treatment.

It looks like he's got another book out, "Healthy For Life", but I haven't read that one. It seems he also does online consultations, if you like what you read in the book(s).
post #11 of 52
I don't fear the saturated fats AT ALL. Saturated fat is not the demon conventional medicine has made it out to be. It's the insulin response from carbs/sugar.

Your DH needs to eat like a diabetic (we all do, really.) He needs to eat like a diabetic trying to get off meds. This is where I am because the insulin/blood sugar reactions I've been noticing for the past year after eating anything carby/sugary is getting worse & I don't want to end up a diabetic or heart disease patient. For me, I'm sure it has to do with hormonal imbalances because of my adrenal insufficiency. I notice when my adrenal symptoms are worse (dizziness, mostly), I have a harder time with any amount of carbs.

Two books that would be REALLY helpful for your DH:

The Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard Bernstein

Reverse Heart Disease Now by Dr. Stephen Sinatra

I bought both of these last year after my Dad had multi-system organ failure, including congestive heart failure all from Type 2 diabetes. He had quadruple bypass surgery a year ago. His cardio-thoracic surgeon (who performed his surgery) told him to eat all the fat he wants but get rid of the carbs. I had been telling my parents this for y-e-a-r-s & boy was it sweet to hear him say that to them. Of course, you know which fats to avoid - trans fats & vegetable oils.
Tom Cowan also has some interesting thoughts on heart disease in The Fourfold Path to Healing - do you have this book? It's worth getting.

Can you get a Y membership & go together? I think it's easier to exercise when you have a buddy.

If it were me, I wouldn't do anything that the doctor recommended except for maintaining a healthy weight & exercising. Reducing stress is also important. The adrenals play a big part in heart health by way of blood sugar/insulin control. So anything he can do to support his adrenals is a good idea.

Does he already take fermented CLO? I agree with the PP, it's something he should be on. Like TL said, we also take vitamin K2 - Thorne brand.

The books I mentioned above have a lot of good recommendations. My naturopath who treats my adrenals recommended them to me last year. He's also a member of the WAPF & PPF. I trust him completely.

IMO, it all comes down to insulin. The best thing he could do is eat as close to Paleo as possible. I think some people can handle raw dairy & personally, I think that's okay. I think raw dairy can be beneficial if we tolerate it.
Getting rid of food from outside the home is going to be tough - but if he wants to reverse this, he's going to have to change his diet.
post #12 of 52
I second the suggestion for the Sinatra book. It has some really good ideas and specifics on supplements etc.
Also, do a google search and type in:
cayenne + heart + plaque

Also, see if your library has a book called Left For Dead - I forget the author - but it's a good read about a man who healed himself from coronary heart disease after triple bypass surgery.
post #13 of 52
Thread Starter 
thank you thank you : please keep it coming... lots to look into here.
post #14 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chakra View Post
Here are the things his doctor wants him to do:

1. Maintain weight. (My husband is a healthy weight)
2. Take 81 mg of aspirin per day.
3. Take 1000 mg of fish oil per day.
4. Exercise regularly. (My husband walks to/from the train every day and is active in the yard and garden, but he does not "work out".)
5. Start a cholesterol lowering drug in the class of statins (e.g., simvastatin) to be taken every day for the rest of his life.

I would not do any of that! Omg the asprin and statins are sooo bad....

Do your own research but here is what we would do.

Serrapeptase
miracle mineral solution
red yeast rice
green smoothies daily
flax oil
Aspirin and statins are bad! Aspirin in particular is now thought of as bad to take daily. This is old advise. Statins are bad too. We just got my DH off them a year or so ago and he is much better. His cholesterol is down just due to changes in diet. Check out amazon for books on how bad statins are. There was a time article awhile back that talked about it as well.

I second the flax oil and fish oil!
post #15 of 52
Thread Starter 
Links please re: aspirin? Why is it bad? I thought it was the holy grail or something... the simple little innocuous thing you could do every day for "heart health" (ok, I'm being generous here, but that's the message).
post #16 of 52
I'm going to suggest for balance that you read some Dr. McDougall, Eat To Live by Dr. Fuhrman, and The China Study.

I'm not on the saturated fat is good bandwagon.

Cutting way back on meat and dairy and upping the amount of whole grain/veggies/fruits/fiber imo is your best bet.
post #17 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Porcelain Interior View Post
I'm going to suggest for balance that you read some Dr. McDougall, Eat To Live by Dr. Fuhrman, and The China Study.

I'm not on the saturated fat is good bandwagon.

Cutting way back on meat and dairy and upping the amount of whole grain/veggies/fruits/fiber imo is your best bet.
Even cardiologists are realizing that the anti-saturated fat & meat campaign is bogus.

Whole grains & fruits & even starchy vegetables turn into glucose in your body - no difference whatsoever. This leads to high blood sugar & ever increasing insulin to control the blood sugar spikes. Eventually you end up with insulin resistance which leads to heart disease.

And for balance: The Truth About the China Study
post #18 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metasequoia View Post
Even cardiologists are realizing that the anti-saturated fat & meat campaign is bogus.

Whole grains & fruits & even starchy vegetables turn into glucose in your body - no difference whatsoever. This leads to high blood sugar & ever increasing insulin to control the blood sugar spikes. Eventually you end up with insulin resistance which leads to heart disease.
Yup.

And for the last 20 years of the anti-fat nutritional recommendations in the US, obesity, heart disease, and glucose metabolism issues have gotten much worse, not better. You'd think they'd at least stay the same if low fats/low saturated fats weren't effective. Such a diet is not only ineffective, it worsens the very conditions it purports to correct.

If you cut calories in fats, you have to find those calories somewhere else. And that usually means increased carbs, which leads to insulin resistance, insulin spikes, and stickier arteries.
post #19 of 52
I highly recommend Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It really gives a good overview of nutrition and heart disease science that will give you the medical context you need going forward.

I would also join medscape.com and research any options before taking anything.

Heart Disease this young is not good and needs to be aggressively countered.



V
post #20 of 52
Also, I would like links to more info on aspirin--I'm searching and not coming up with anything other than aspirin prevents heart attacks.

V
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