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Why not just get "perfect" lipids and call it a day?

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:26pm

What if you achieved the Track Your Plaque lipid targets: LDL cholesterol 60 mg/dl, HDL 60 mg/dl, and triglycerides 60 mg/dl?

After all, these are pretty stringent standards. Compared to national guidelines (the ATP-III Guidelines of the National Cholesterol Educational Panel), the Track Your Plaque 60-60-60 goals are laughably ambitious. There's a lot of wisdom hidden in those numbers. The triglyceride level of 60, for instance, is a level at which triglycerides become essentially unavailable for formation of triglyceride-containing lipoprotein particles such as small LDL and VLDL.

If you get to the 60-60-60 target, isn't that good enough? What if you just held your values there and went about your business? Will coronary plaque stop growing and will your CT heart scan score stop increasing?

Sometimes it will. But, unfortunately, many times it will not. The experience generated through clinical trials bear this out. Studies like the St. Francis Heart Study and the BELLES Trial both showed that just reducing LDL cholesterol is insufficient to stop plaque growth. Beyond the Track Your Plaque experience, there's no clinical trial experience that shows whether the 60-60-60 approach does any better.

In our experience, achieving 60-60-60 is indeed better than just reducing LDL. That makes sense. Just raising HDL from the average of 42 mg/dl for a male, 52 mg/dl for a woman adds advantage. Compound this with triglyceride reduction from the plaque-creating equation, and you've doubled success.

But there's even more. What if you had hidden patterns not revealed by conventional lipids? How about lipoprotein(a)? Small LDL? Postprandial (after-eating) abnormalities? Hypertensive effects (more common than you think)!

In 2006, stopping the increase in your heart scan score is, for most of us, not just a matter of taking Lipitor or its equivalent and sitting back. For nearly all of us, stopping the progression of your score is a multi-faceted effort.

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