Of all the various factors we correct in the Track Your Plaque program in the name of achieving reversal of coronary plaque, there are two factors that are proving to be our greatest challenges:
1) Genetic small LDL
More and more people are enjoying at least marked slowing, if not zero change or reduction, in heart scan scores following the Track Your Plaque program. We achieve this by correcting a number of factors. Some factors, like vitamin D deficiency, are easily corrected to perfection–supplement sufficient vitamin D to achieve a blood level of 25-hydroxy vitamin D of 60-70 ng/ml. Correcting standard lipid values–LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides–child’s play, even to our strict targets of 60-60-60.
However, what I call “genetic small LDL” and a subset of lipoprotein(a) are proving to be the most resistant of all.
Let’s first consider genetic small LDL. Small LDL is generally the pattern of the carbohydrate-ingesting, overweight person. It has exploded in severity over the past decade due to overconsumption of carbohydrates due to the ridiculous low-fat notion. Reduce or eliminate carbohydrates, especially wheat, which permits weight loss, and small LDL drops like a stone. But there is a unique subset of people who express the small LDL pattern who start at or near ideal weight. Take Chad, for instance. At 6′ 2″ and 152 lbs and BMI of 19.6, there’s no way excess weight could be triggering his small LDL. Yet he starts with 100% small LDL particles. All efforts to reduce small LDL, such as wheat, cornstarch, and sugar elimination; niacin; vitamin D normalization; thyroid normalization; and several supplements that yield variable effects, such as phosphatidylcholine, all leave Chad with more than 90% small LDL.
Lipoprotein(a) is a bit different. Over the past 5 years, our choices in ways to reduce Lp(a) expression have improved dramatically. Beyond niacin, we now have high-dose EPA + DHA, thyroid normalization that includes use of T3, and hormonal manipulation. In the Track Your Plaque experience, approximately 70% of people with Lp(a) respond with a reduction in Lp(a). (In fact, the 4 out of the 5 record holders for reduction of heart scan scores have Lp(a) that was successfully treated.) But about 30% of people with Lp(a) prove resistant to all these treatments–they begin with a Lp(a) of, say, 260 nmol/L and, despite niacin, high-dose EPA + DHA, and various hormones, stay at 260 nmol/L. It can be frustrating and frightening.
So these are the two true problem areas for the Track Your Plaque program, genetic small LDL and a subset of Lp(a).
We are actively searching for better options for these two problem areas. Given the collective exploration and wisdom that develops from such collaborative efforts as the Track Your Plaque Forum, I am optimistic that we will have better answers for these two stumbling blocks to plaque reversal in the future.
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