QM Case History: Severe Heart Disease Reversed

A 57 year old male, lets call him ‘Joe,’ new to me, came in to be seen for a sinus infection. The history and findings were consistent with this diagnosis but he seemed to want to talk about something else.Male Doctor Hand Abstract with Lab Coat and Stethoscope.

Joe’s brother had just had a heart attack, subsequent bypass grafting for the blockages in his heart arteries, and his father had had early heart disease as well. My new patient wanted to talk about his heart more than his sinuses. Who could blame him?

He jogged for health and ate what he had been told was a heart healthy diet; low fat, little dietary cholesterol, you know the drill. He also knew I had an after hours clinic I called “The Performance and Prevention Clinic.” That mouthful was what I named the part of my practice devoted to working with high performance athletes and those who wanted to prevent, rather than merely treat, disease.

He was asking me to work with him to help ensure that he did not experience his brother’s fate. Well, maybe… But first I wanted some baseline testing to see if I had anything to offer. Joe’s first Berkeley Heart Lab panel, now 17 years ago, showed his triglycerides were 601 mg/dl, a predictable B pattern LDL, total cholesterol over 300 and a very low HDL besides. To make matters more interesting he had a high fasting insulin and Lp(a). Oh, and he was also heterozygous for Apo E4.  His genetic gun was loaded and he had been pulling the trigger; it looked like he was lucky to not already have suffered his brother’s fate.

CAI told him I could not work with him without a coronary angiogram. The cardiologist to whom I referred him agreed and performed a coronary catheterization angiogram. In the middle of that procedure is when I got the phone call. The cardiologist was on the phone and telling me that my patient had a nearly completely occluded left anterior descending arterial (LAD: ‘the widow maker’) blockage, as well as other blockages, and that the patient needed to go straight to the operating room for multi-vessel bypass graft. “Fine”, I said, I trusted the cardiologist. “Mike”, the cards guy said, “this guy wants to come see you and I don’t think he should leave the hospital, would you talk to him?” I told my patient to stay there and get the procedure. He said, “no,” that he wanted to try my program. A fairly long discussion ensued during which he assured me that neither he nor his family would sue me if he died or had other complications. While I cared very much about those details, I was more concerned about his life and health.

His story worked out very well, I will outline that part, but absolutely similar stories have been told and the patient did die on their way out the hospital door so do not misunderstand my point. I am not encouraging anyone to take such foolish risks but I am recounting the reality of how powerful life behavioral changes can be in restoring health.

This will look like a tangent but bear with me and you will see its relevance to Joe’s rehabilitation. There is a nice hill not too far from my office. I had a civil engineering firm greek god‘shoot’ the hill to get precise measurements on its slope and length. With that data I can calculate the exact power output anyone achieves going up that hill.(We don’t call this Quantitative Medicine for nothing.) The relevant part of the hill is a 27% grade almost exactly 100 yards long.

A week ago, as we have done off and on for 15 years, Joe and I ran up that hill. His heart rate typically gets into the 170 range. He is now in his mid 70’s. These are Joe’s words: “when I started with you I was a short, fat Italian, and now I look like a Greek god.” Now that comment was several years ago and I won’t elaborate on his political sensitivity but it sure was a funny remark that summarized his transformation. Joe never did get that surgery. Tragically, his brother developed dementia and died several years ago. Of a heart attack.

  4 comments for “QM Case History: Severe Heart Disease Reversed

  1. Helene
    March 18, 2015 at 4:57 am

    Few words only. What a tragic and so familiar topic – just reading it brings tears to my eyes.
    I lost my mother (when she was only 57), my brother and recently – my husband – all from the same heart disease. Out of three of them only my mother knew about her heart disease and she had a lot of treatment, which didn’t saved her in the end, but at least prolonged her life. She didn’t had bypass op. I don’t know why and can’t now go back in time. We always learn from tragedies.

    According to my own HDL/LDL and other data, it seems that I possibly inherited genes from my father, who was fit and healthy, as far as I remember him. With my blood pressure usually 120/80 and no other symptoms so far – I may live even into 90s (my Doctor said). Who knows. This is why those special exercises, recommended in the earlier post are so unique and valuable! It’s just a matter of starting them, instead of just reading!

    And the author of this post must take care of his own health as well, because looking after patients can be also very stressful.

  2. Allen Mitchell
    July 19, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    Sorry, I guess I am missing something? How did you reverse his heart disease. I have severe heart disease and I am looking for anything to prevent me from having heart bypass.. I do not know know how much time I have to do this. Please help. Allen

  3. bob
    July 16, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    well here we go back in the 1990s I fall off the back of a truck and screed up my back over the years it got worse then I start it to have problems with my heart yes I got a triple by pass but be for that I tried to revers it for to years and it didn’t work any way then I block up so they but a stent in me tree years later one more stent ok here we are 2016 now 4 stents and yes got hit with cancer colon cancer they did a 6 hr surgery well well didn’t work so they had to cut me up from the chest right down now 11 hr on the table yes it was to much so I took a heart a tack heart stop on me till they sap me still here now woke up to colon oscupy bag now holy Mack row just saying been a vegetarian for 20 year today I feel good and im 65

  4. John
    February 4, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    How was the heart disease reversed?

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