. . . but not in a good way.
The September, 2011 issue of Consumer Reports showcases their Protect Your Heart discussion. Third paragraph: “The website Track Your Plaque warns, ‘The old tests for heart disease were wrong–dead wrong.’ It says heart scans are ‘the most important health test you can get.’”
They go on to expose the overuse of heart procedures like angioplasty and stent implantation and offer their advice on how to manage heart disease risk: lower BP, reduce LDL cholesterol, lose weight, stop smoking, take aspirin. They quote Dr. Paul Ridker who declares heart scans are not useful because the “deposits cardiologists worry about are the less stable plaques that CT scans routinely miss.”
I thought I’d been transported back to 1995. Not only is it clear that the Consumer Report writers never looked beyond the homepage of Track Your Plaque, but somehow saw our heart disease prevention and reversal program as promoting heart procedures. Incredible.
Of course, the Track Your Plaque program does the exact opposite: Advocates an approach that virtually eliminates the need for procedures and returns control over heart disease to the participant. That’s a critical difference.
And, as I’ve had to remind my colleagues time and time again, what we are really after is an index of total coronary atherosclerotic plaque. Even in 2011, that index remains the simple coronary calcium score, a gauge of total plaque, not just of “hard,” stable plaque. Perhaps in 10 years we will be using a better tool to gauge progression and regression of all the components of coronary atherosclerotic plaque, but today it remains the simple, accessible, mammogram-like coronary calcium score.
Consumer Reports does for the idea of heart disease prevention what food manufacturers do for health and weight loss: Echo conventional wisdom of the sort that generally makes us fatter, more diabetic, leads us to more heart procedures and needless deaths. I might use Consumer Reports to rate MP-3 devices or toasters, but I certainly would not rely on them for insightful health advice.
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