A news article from November caught my attention today in which critics argue against the usefulness of a coronary calcium scan, a quick, noninvasive test using a CT scanner that exposes a patient to less radiation than two chest x-rays and can detect cardiac plaque years, even decades, before the plaque shows up on a cardiac stress test.
Critics of a calcium scan argue that standard risk factors (measuring cholesterol and performing stress tests, for example) are effective enough to identify impending cardiac events. The problem with their “traditional risk factors,” as I discuss in great detail in Don’t Die Early, is that 90% of the heart attacks are not predicted by assessing traditional risk factors.
As you’ll learn in Don’t Die Early, controlling our blood glucose is critical to achieving optimal health. This is because insulin resistance and damage from elevated glucose levels occurs for years, even decades, before the standard medical tests show that we’re diabetic. By identifying how the foods we’re eating affect our blood glucose levels today, we can delay or even prevent Type 2 diabetes while it’s still on the distant horizon. Waiting until our doctor tells us that our fasting glucose is 115 mg/dL and that we’re “pre-diabetic” is the wrong way to go find out that we’ve been damaging ourselves multiple times each day by causing our blood glucose to reach 130, 140, or even higher. Levels that research shows are toxic to our bodies.
I have a friend in his 30’s who became interested in blood glucose levels after hearing me talk about the subject. He purchased a glucose meter and checked his postprandial (after eating) glucose levels over a few days. He was stunned to see that his blood glucose was reaching 150 to 180 mg/dL after a typical meal.
His response? He put the glucose meter away and forgot all about it. He continues to eat the same way he did before.
By this time, I figure most everyone knows what LDL cholesterol is and those over age 30 have undoubtedly had their LDL checked numerous times, with many of them put on a statin medication because their “LDL is too high.”
Setting aside for a moment the role that LDL plays in heart disease (which, as you can read in my book, is a concept that has been dangerously oversimplified—it’s really the number of LDL particles, not total LDL amount that’s important in assessing heart disease risk), what you probably don’t know is the “standard” cholesterol test that your doctor orders is not really a measurement of your LDL—it’s just an estimate. And it’s an estimate that can be off by a frightening amount, depending upon a variety of factors.