Yesterday I did something that I had been wanting to do for months: I got a Heart Scan (Calcium Score). For those unfamiliar with the term, a Heart Scan is a measure of the arterial plaque in your cardiac arteries and is done using a 64-slice CT scan. And, to my absolute shock, I had ZERO arterial plaque.
My scores were actually 0 across the board. I was in such disbelief - they give your readout on the spot - that I asked the technician if there could be a mistake. She said that she actually sees the imagines, or slices, from the CT scan. She said plaque is incredibly obvious and shows up as white patches in the arteries and even a lay person could not miss it. The computer then calculates your average arterial plaque based on the 64 slices, but, in my case, there was nothing to calculate! For those interested, here are my actual Heart Scan Results . Hey, I may not be the best-looking or best built guy in the gym, but I may just have the best arteries! (Statistically, my printout said that about 10 percent of men my age with have a calcium score of zero, so it's actually not terribly unusual.)
No, I say humbly that I was very thankful and completely stunned and the reason is that, as I have explained elsewhere on the site, I have been low testosterone for probably decades and this can lead to hardening of the arteries. In addition, I have eaten a lot of fast food during for about 30 years as well. Growing up, I had meat for every lunch and dinner almost without exception. So, what I am getting at, is that prior to the age of about 45, I ate a lot of fat and saturated fat and, undoubtedly had accumulated at least some arteriosclerosis. Studies on soldiers show that almost all men on a Western Diet have acclerated arteriosclerosis.
So where did any such plaque go? Well, the answer is in my opinion a low glycemic, Low Fat Diet. Again for any of you who have read My Story , you may recall that I went on a Low Fat Diet about 5 years ago when I found out I was struggling with erectile dysfunction due to (undiagnosed-at-the-time) hypogonadism (clinically low testosterone). This produced such dramatic results that I have never really turned back in spite of the fact that I know no friends of family eating a Low Fat Diet. I found from looking at My 2009 Physical that my cholesterol was as low as 127 even back then.
NOTE: I hope that no one will believe the myth that you cannot have zero arteriosclerosis. I have heart this stated a 100 different times from various authorities that fall in the Paleo/Low Carb crowd. Essentially, the argument is that "arteriosclerosis is inevitable" and so you just have to learn how to manage it. Well, that is risky business. It's true that the Masai had significant arteriosclerosis, but they also exercise about 8 hours a day and had very low levels of stress. The typical Westerner with arteriosclerosis is asking for very painful angina at a minimum and strokes and heart attacks eventually.
Anyway, let me explain why I am almost certain that a Low Fat Diet is the primary reason for me having these kind of arterial plaque results:
1. Stress. I do practice meditation and PMR but am very inconsistent. Furthermore, I did not even know how to execute these until a couple of years ago. And, to be very honest, I am a high anxiety person in general.
2. Sleep. My sleep over the last five years has probably averaged 6 hours per night and, yes, I tend to be hypocritical. However, a lot of it has to do with this site.
3. Testosterone. My testosterone was quite low with topicals, i.e. compounding and especially Androgel. It wasn't until pellets which was about a year ago that my testosterone actually reached anything resembling youthful levels. My point is that it is really only one year out of my entire adult life that I likely had decent testosterone levels.
4. Exercise. I don't think anyone is going to claim that exercise will remove arterial plaque. Even so, I want to point out that I have been diligent in exercising for the last five years almost every day. However, the majority of my exercise time is weight lifting and low intensity cardio.
5. Sitting. Having a desk job and working on this site have me sitting a big percentage of the day. This is very hard on the body.
6. Fructose. I think it's safe to say that I have quite often exceeded the 25-50 grams/day dosage of fructose that I mention on my site. Fructose is very hard on the cardiovascular system.
7. Supplements. I have experimented briefly with a wide variety of supplements but eventually quit almost all of them.
Again, I am just trying to point out that I have definitely NOT lived perfectly and my lifestyle is anything but ideal for optimal health. Don't get me wrong - I'm proud of the changes I have made. But it would be a real stretch to claim that other lifestyle factors may have been responsible for may lack of arterial plaque.
However, I do want to mention some things that I have consistently done over the last five years that may have helped considerably:
1. Vitamin C. For the majority of these years I have taken at least 3 doses of 500 mg Ester-C. There is an entire "Pauling Theory" of Vitamin C protecting the collagen in one's arteries and that Vitamin C lowers arterial oxidation and inflammation. However, this is not well accepted in the medical community to say the least and I doubt anyone thinks that just taking Vitamin C will magically reverse arteriosclerosis. Nevertheless, I suspect this may have helped somewhat.
2. Fruit and Vegetables. The minute that I started on a Low Fat Diet, I increased my fruit and vegetable consumption. I have eaten a lot of whole grains as well, including things like brown rice, wheat germ, quinoa, etc. (I know shy away from wheat due to concern over the high GMO'd content.) But I think it's safe to say that I've averaged about 8 servings of fruit and vegetables daily and 1-2 of whole grains during the entire time period. I also am an avid black tea drinker, which is artery friendly.
3. Exercise. Although I would strongly argue that exercise will not eliminate arterial plaque, it is interesting that Pritikin, who died with perfectly clean arteries, was religious about running a mile per day. Exercise may play more of a role than we realize and I have been steady and consistent over the last five years.
Now let me say what really pumped me up about Low Fat Diets. I have eaten a Low Fat Diet that is a little different from the standard: I use a lot of protein from egg whites, undenatured rice and at time undenatured whey. I have heard it argued and implied that this would sabotage my efforts, so, needless to say, I was VERY pleased that it had had no negative impact. (There is a chance that some proteins may increase cancer risks however, but that is a big subject.)
CAUTION: Before deciding on a Heart Scan, you have to decide if the radition is worth it. Keep in mind that it is the equivalent of about four chest xrays from what I have heard. I decided it was worth the risk, but you have to do your own research and make up your own mind as I always say...