CAN YOU REVERSE YOUR CORONARY ARTERY CALCIUM (CAC) SCORE?
Sure. But What Is It And How?
HEART DISEASE / ATHEROSCLEROSIS
Many people used to get a disease referred to as “hardening of the arteries” back in my early days. Basically, as we age, calcium starts to leave our bones and take up residence in the arteries in and around the heart. These calcium deposits can then either be “soft” and more malleable or “hard” and take up more permanent residence in the artery. If too much calcium takes up residence, this leads to heart attacks or cardiac arrests and can lead to many other heart complications. This condition is commonly referred to as “heart disease” by most common folk.
WHAT IS THE CORONARY ARTERY CALCIUM (CAC) SCORE?
The deposits of calcium that accumulate in the arteries can be measured using an imaging test, and this measurement is called the “Coronary Artery Calcium” score. The imaging test can be performed by a radiologist at a hospital almost anywhere if the governing bodies allow it. The Coronary Artery Calcium Score is also often referred to as one of these alternative terms:
- Calcium Scan of the Heart
- Coronary Calcium Score
- Cardiac Scoring
- Cardiac CT for Calcium Scoring
- Calcium Scan Test
MY FIRST CAC SCORE
I first encountered heart problems when I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) with Rapid Ventricular Response (RVR) and Heart Failure in the year of 2017. During the following year of 2018, I decided to get my CAC score so that I would know if I had any problems with calcium building up in the arteries in my heart. My initial score in 2018 was 66 which, while it was concerning, was not alarming. My cardiologist recommended statin-based cholesterol therapy but I chose to explore other options. I later had another CAC score in 2018 as part of another imaging scan and was measured at 58, which was encouraging.
IS IT REVERSIBLE?
Many cardiologists do not consider it possible to reverse the CAC score back to zero. Most are happy to decrease the rate of increase for the score, as once the score is over 400, the more likely you are to have heart disease or have an event such as a heart attack or stroke. There are many complications from this heart disease, so reversing the score seems like a logical goal. Some cardiologists do believe that the CAC score can be lowered or reversed through lifestyle changes.
- Coronary Artery Calcium (CAC) Scoring
- Will Reversing My Heart Disease with Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Change My Calcium Score?
- Ask the doctor: Is it possible to reverse coronary artery disease?
- Is It Possible (Or Even Desirable) to Reverse a High Coronary Calcium Score?
I REVERSED MY CAC SCORE
I recently had another incidence of Atrial Fibrillation and decided to get an updated CAC score as part of my healing process. My new CAC score was 42, which is better than the 66 and 58 scores I received in the year 2018. This means that I reduced my CAC score by 36% within a period of three years. Most would consider this a good thing, so the question is — How did I do that?
HOW DID I REVERSE MY CAC SCORE?
What did I do that made this happen? What lifestyle or nutritional changes did I make to reverse that score? I really don’t know. I made some changes to my lifestyle and also made some nutritional changes, but I’m not sure which of these had an impact. It could all be a coincidence. But I’ll describe the changes I made in the following paragraphs.
One thing that happened is that I moved my family from Illinois to Tennessee in the year 2018. We moved from the flat cornfields of Illinois at roughly 580 feet above sea level to a mountain top in Tennessee located in the middle of nowhere at roughly twenty-two hundred feet above sea level. It is possible that there are less pollutants in the air here as there aren’t as many farmers spraying their fields, but I don’t really have any idea what the state of Tennessee sprays on the trees around here. Living in Tennessee leads to a less stressful lifestyle, as there is less traffic and stress from government oversight, so that may have had an impact.
I SLEPT MORE
I spent most of my life working between sixty hours and eighty hours per week, and I made a conscious effort to reduce my work hours and get more sleep every night. I definitely reduced the work hours for many periods of those three years and did get more sleep. So this lifestyle change may have had an impact. But, I really don’t know.
IMPROVED MY FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS
While I’m not sure how successful I was, I did make an attempt to improve my relationships with my loving spouse of thirty-two years and my four sons. Improved relationships can lower stress, and maybe that helped. But, once again, I really don’t know.
MY KETOGENIC DIET
I have been eating a ketogenic diet since the year 2014 with no fear of consuming protein or fat. My dietary intake has been primarily carnivore with some weekly dalliances into the delights of various vegetables and limited fruit. I have not restricted dairy for any length of time. I consumed a LOT of dietary fat compared to the average American and likely more protein as well. Could this have helped? I think it’s likely, but I don’t honestly know. Scientists have studied the ketogenic diet, but the studies are often shorter term, complicated to design, and difficult to analyze.
- The ketogenic diet: Pros and cons
- A Cardiologist’s Take on the Keto Diet
- A Ketogenic Diet Is Protective Against Atherosclerosis in Apolipoprotein E Knockout Mice
- Very Low Carbohydrate and Ketogenic Diets and Cardiometabolic Risk
- Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies
EXTENDED FASTING AND INTERMITTENT FASTING
While I had done a lot of fasting before the year 2018, I limited my fasting to anywhere from eighteen hours to five days during the years between 2018 and 2021 (now). During these fasts, I drank calorie free beverages but made no effort to restrict liquids except for two dry fasts between eighteen and twenty-eight hours in duration. I fasted fairly frequently, but only when I felt up to it and felt unstressed. I used these fasts to reduce my ejection fraction while I was in heart failure as well. Did this fasting impact my CAC score in a good way? It’s highly likely that autophagy, growth hormone, and stem cell production all play a part, but the body is complex and the science surely isn’t clear on the topic. I think it likely had a large impact, but I don’t really know for sure.
- Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders — An Overview
- Long-term calorie restriction is highly effective in reducing the risk for atherosclerosis in humans
- Boosting Autophagy to Treat Atherosclerosis
- The Effects of Meal Timing and Frequency, Caloric Restriction, and Fasting on Cardiovascular Health: an Overview
- Food Restriction and Atherosclerotic Plaque Stabilization
VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS
I took a lot of vitamins and supplements during this period of three years. I took 6000 to 20,000 iu per day of Vitamin D3, 540 to 1,800 mcg of Vitamin K2 in the form of MK4 and MK7, Magnesium in Taurate and Glycinate form, Sodium, COQ10 with Ubiquinol, Selenium, 40,000 SPU of Serrapeptase, 200 mg of Nattokinase, Glutathione, Berberine, NAC, and too many more to mention. I did this against the advice of my cardiologist who considers it all to be a waste of money and time. Did it have an impact? I believe so. I think it’s likely. But, I honestly don’t know.
- Nattokinase: A Promising Alternative in Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Diseases
- The role of serratiopeptidase in the resolution of inflammation
- The relationship between circulating vitamin D3 and subclinical atherosclerosis in an elderly Asian population
- Effect of vitamin K2 on progression of atherosclerosis and vascular calcification in nondialyzed patients with chronic kidney disease stages 3–5
- The Inhibitory Roles of Vitamin K in Progression of Vascular Calcification
- Role of Magnesium Deficiency in Promoting Atherosclerosis, Endothelial Dysfunction, and Arterial Stiffening as Risk Factors for Hypertension
- Serum Magnesium is associated with Carotid Atherosclerosis in patients with high cardiovascular risk
RECEIVED THOUGHTS, PRAYERS, ENERGY, AND SCORN
During the years 2017 through 2021, I received lots of thoughts, prayers, energy, and scorn as a result of three extended periods of heart failure. Two were six weeks in duration and the first was fifteen months. I will never discount this as having an impact on my overall health and well-being. I believe in the Giver Of Heartbeats, and having that belief may have an impact on my CAC score. I honestly don’t know. But, it likely did.
- Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction
- The association of religious affiliation with cholesterol levels among South Asians: the Mediators of Atherosclerosis in South Asians Living in America study
I GAINED 80 POUNDS
I have gained eighty pounds as a result of my three heart events between the years 2017 and 2021. This is after dropping from about six hundred pounds down to 280 pounds before my first heart event. Each of these events had a cause which included black mold toxicity, pneumonia, and resulting inflammation, and teeth and gum inflammation. But, could gaining weight be cardioprotective for the arteries? I doubt it, but I don’t know. Every time I have healed up from one of these heart events, I’ve automatically resumed losing weight at my typical thirty to forty pounds per year rate that was standard before the events.
- Normal-weight obesity is associated with increased risk of subclinical atherosclerosis
- Weight loss and progression of early atherosclerosis in the carotid artery: a four-year controlled study of obese subjects
- Weight loss is superior to exercise in improving the atherogenic lipid profile in a sedentary, overweight population with stable coronary artery disease: A randomized trial
- Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease Risk
- Proper diets reverse atherosclerosis in fat people
- Obesity and atherosclerosis: the exosome link
I rode my bicycle 24,000ish miles between 2011 and 2017 and then reduced my riding after that due to my heart events. I still love riding, but it takes time that I have reallocated to maintain the conditioning to do that level of bicycle riding. I have no regrets. Did my reduced level of exercise and fitness help reduce my CAC score? It was a major lifestyle change. I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think the scientists know either. I tend to be excessive when I do things and my bicycling was likely excessive. But did I have an impact? I’ll have to ride and think about it more.
- Exercise and Coronary Atherosclerosis
- Atherosclerosis and Physical Activity
- The effect of physical activity or exercise on key biomarkers in atherosclerosis — A systematic review
- Influence of chronic exercise on carotid atherosclerosis in marathon runners
- Exercise protects against cardiovascular disease by modulating immune cell supply
ZERO-SUGAR MONSTER ENERGY ZERO ULTRA DRINKS
I consumed an average of four to five of these twenty-four-ounce cans per day, a habit I did not acquire until the early days of my first heart event in 2017. I discovered that drinking a can of this every three to four hours lowered my heart rate by ten to twenty beats per minute by accident, so I made it part of my regular, daily routine. Could it be the 560 mg of sodium, 210 mg of caffeine, the proprietary mix of Vitamins B3, B5, B6 and B12, Taurine, Carnitine, or other ingredients, or that I added two cups of coffee also? Could these have helped reverse my CAC score? I have no idea. Maybe someday the scientists will know.
- Coffee consumption and calcified atherosclerotic plaques in the coronary arteries: The NHLBI Family Heart Study
- Association Between Coffee Intake and Incident Heart Failure Risk
- Effects of energy drinks on the cardiovascular system
ATE BACON AND EGGS
I ate a lot of bacon, eggs, pork belly, pork butts, steaks, hamburgers, and cheese during that time period. I tried to consume at least seven grams of sodium per day instead of the low sodium, heart-healthy recommendations of my doctors. Could this have had an impact? Is a high sodium diet a positive thing? Who knows? I certainly don’t know, but that’s what I did.
- Differential effects of dietary sodium intake on blood pressure and atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic mice
- The association of carotid artery atherosclerosis with the estimated excretion levels of urinary sodium and potassium and their ratio in Chinese adults
- Sodium and Its Role in Cardiovascular Disease — The Debate Continues
- Is Salt a Culprit or an Innocent Bystander in Hypertension? A Hypothesis Challenging the Ancient Paradigm
I DON’T KNOW
I reversed my CAC score by 36% in three years but I have no idea how. I’ve outlined the changes I made to my lifestyle and nutrition in general terms during that period of time. But I still don’t know. I know I don’t know. I wish I did. I made educated guesses based on daily and weekly observations, but I was the lab rat in my lab called life. I had to make tactical choices; some or most of which my cardiologist would likely disagree with. I’m glad I made these choices and changes, and I’ll likely make more over the coming years until I pass on to the beginning of my new end.
My cardiologist has been nothing but understanding, patient, skeptical, and descriptive in his communication, and treatments for the last four years. Even though I often make choices that go against his education and instincts, he has tolerated me and supported me through it all, and I will be forever grateful. He likely shakes his head and is baffled and humored by what I do, but he does support the self-directed nature of my health care. He certainly is not responsible for any poor choices I make. I’d recommend him to anyone without hesitation.
I wish I knew more about reversing a CAC score, but I don’t. I’ve lived it. I’ve made it happen. I think I know what worked and what didn’t, but I certainly don’t know for sure and don’t know how to make any specific recommendations. I simply hope that others find a similar way. I’m going to enjoy the rest of my days on this side of the soil reminiscing about times, both good and bad. And when I ascend to my home beyond the sky, and they plant my remains below the earth, I will have done my best. Feel free to follow my ramblings at the links listed below: