One year ago, following a coronary artery calcium (CAC) scan that revealed “severe coronary artery calcification,” I felt threatened. It motivated me to learn all I could about coronary artery disease and possible treatment tactics. You can read my account that I posted to TuD back then.
After reviewing the medical literature and interacting with other heart patients on the Undoctored Inner Circle forum, I decided that the statin my cardiologist was strongly pushing was not an effective path. Instead, encouraged by other patients, I chose to embark on a series of lifestyle changes that held more hope for me.
My intent was to give these new lifestyle habits a one year trial, get another CAC scan and see if lifestyle could affect positive change. I learned that coronary artery plaque usually progresses at a frightening 25-30% per year pace.
Several sources asserted that simply stabilizing that number would greatly diminish by risk of an adverse heart event going forward. I remain asymptomatic at this point and have not experienced any chest pain or heart attack.
So, I committed myself a year ago to adopt a list of lifestyle changes that would stop, even reverse, or at least slow down this disease progression. I decided against the insistence of my cardiologist that I needed to begin taking a statin if I had any hope of changing the troubling heart health trajectory I was on. I think this frustrated him.
What changes did I make? The list is lengthy, so I’ll just touch on the main ones.
Eliminate all grains from my diet. That includes wheat, rice, and soybean products.
Eliminate all added sugars, except, of course, for hypoglycemia treatments.
Work on getting good, consistent, and restful sleep.
Work on improving my digestion.
Work on improving my thyroid labs to optimal, not just “in range.” I live with hypothyroidism.
Add daily nutritional supplements including vitamin D3, Omega 3, magnesium, and vitamin K2.
Maintain my daily walking exercise, averaging 2-4 miles/day.
Adopt a daily meditation practice to enhance mindfulness and tamp down my natural disposition toward the sympathetic (fight vs. flight) nervous system and encourage more of a parasympathetic (rest and digest) disposition.
Cutting out all grains was not very difficult for me as I had been limiting carbs since 2012. This had an immediate and positive effect on my blood glucose. My time in range went up and glucose variability went down. My A1c dropped about a half point and my total daily dose of insulin went down as well.
I lost 10 pounds and that helped reduce my blood pressure. I still take a med but now am only taking one half my former dose with better numbers. My heart rate also dropped from 80s and 90s down to the 60s and 70s. I still take my beta-blocker med to control my heart rate.
A year ago, my CAC score was 489 indicating severe calcification. My goal over the last year was to at least slow down the typical 25-30% annual progression, if not reverse it.
Last week, I underwent another CAC scan one year following the previous scan. My score?
A score of 482 showed that I stopped my coronary artery disease progression and my risk of an adverse heart event plummeted!
I am thrilled with this result and I will continue with most of my lifestyle changes as I now see concrete proof that what I am doing is working. As I’m sure your know, heart disease is a major complication of diabetes, both T1D and T2D.
I’ve been aware of this fact for many years but my CAC scan last year was my first indication that heart disease threatened my life. I consider stopping that plaque progression a significant success.
I’d be happy to answer any questions in the comments. Today is a good day for me! Thank-you for your interest.