Reversing Heart Disease … How Are We Doing?
“We cannot make good news out of bad practice.” ~Edward R. Murrow
Dr. Crandall walked into the exam room, test results in hand, grinned at Bill and said his stress test results were GREAT!–adding less than 2% of his patients score so well on the test. The nuclear images were all good and Bill’s blood pressure response during the treadmill exercise phase of the test was also good.
Taking a good look at Bill, patting him here and there, he was happy to see him looking so fit, obviously keeping up with his exercise.
It’s a little more than two years now since Bill’s heart attack, and more than a year since Dr. Crandall said he was healthy enough to get off all the medication (he now takes only a baby aspirin and niacin daily). So this consultation was a big deal for us! It was time to get our report card and see the results from the lifestyle changes we’d put in place more than two years ago. To take a closer look at Bill’s heart, a nuclear stress test was prescribed (you can read about it here), a heart ultrasound, and advanced lab work. This was his first heart ultrasound. The ultrasound looks at the structure and the valves of the heart where, in contrast, the stress test looks at the arteries. So we were very interested!
The ultrasound is technically called an echocardiogram; not to be confused with an electrocardiogram (EKG). An EKG measures the heart’s electrical efficiency to see if the pattern is normal but is not very accurate in evaluating how well your heart is pumping. For that an echocardiogram is recommended. It gives us moving pictures that show the heart’s internal structure and how blood is flowing through it. Additionally you can see the size and shape of your heart and how well the valves are functioning.
For Bill it was a simple, easy procedure. He stripped off his shirt, cracked a joke while they attached the sticky electrode patches, and laid back on the exam table. First on his back and then on his side, the sonographer placed the transducer against his chest and watched the monitor to guide her picture taking.
Back at the consult, Dr. Crandall said Bill’s echocardiogram was fine–his heart function and size were all good. And his latest lab results were also good, reporting everything in a healthy range. However, even though his total cholesterol and LDL were comfortably within the recommended range, Dr. Crandall felt there was still room for improvement. He told Bill to double his daily Niacin to 1,000mg to see if he can get his LDL even lower. And then… Something brand new! He talked to us about recent medical news involving intestinal microbiome–those little microorganisms that live in our intestines–and a specific probiotic for the heart called Lactobacillus reuteri. He wanted us to read up on it and add it to Bill’s regimen. Of course I jumped right on this! Clinical studies have shown it can decrease cholesterol and LDL. If you want to learn more, check out this article from Life Extension Foundation.
So Bill has started on this probiotic and it’s going to be interesting to see if and how it affects his lab work at his next followup in October. I’ll let you know his results! One interesting thing about this probiotic we noticed right away is Bill is not as hungry during the day. Interesting side effect.
Wrapping up the session, we asked Dr. Crandall if Bill will ever need another nuclear stress test, expressing our concerns about the radiation exposure. He said in the future, as long as Bill continues to get good results on his echocardiogram and exercise stress test, a nuclear test will not be needed. All in all as news goes, it really was a good news day!