Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Clearing Arteries Without Surgery

Thursday, 04 August 2011 09:04 AM

Question: If you have high cholesterol and plaque buildup in your arteries, can you clear them with medicines or methods other than surgery?

Dr. Hibberd's Answer:

Yes, you definitely can. The entire basis for cardiovascular and stroke prevention strongly relates to the ability of modern medications to stabilize plaque and induce plaque regression. By stabilizing unstable plaque within vulnerable blood vessels, we are able to prevent heart attacks and strokes, and by inducing regression, we reduce the risks even further.

Usual medications used are statins, fibrates, vitamins/niacin, omega-3 and fish oil combinations, and correction of underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension, deficiencies, etc.

Try to keep your protective HDL cholesterol high (over 60 if possible) because it mops up the bad LDL fragments that accumulate in plaque and are easily oxidized and destabilized. Aim for a LDL as low as possible — below 130 is desired — and try to target close to 100 or less. If you achieve the magic level of 80, it's common for plaque to regress.

Be sure not to ignore your triglycerides as well since they also contribute to plaque formation and should be controlled to under 150 mg/dl. Great improvements in triglycerides are often seen by using fish and fish oil products rich in DHA and EPA.

Remember, cholesterol and triglycerides are necessary for normal cellular function, and while serum may be cleared by plasmapheresis (removing blood from the body to extract cholesterol, then returning it), the cost/benefit ratio is excessive. Clearing them by other methods, such as chelation, usually trades one problem for another in most patients.

Chelation therapy is not an approved long-term management option for elevated lipids. Even when utilized for short periods in skilled hands, its use is discouraged by lipid and cardiovascular experts — the chances of complications without long-term benefits aren’t sufficient to justify the risks in most patients.

The best route to follow is diet modification, appropriate supplementation, and aggressive lipid management with the help of a medical doctor to achieve a reduced risk of plaque complications, heart attack, and stroke.

© HealthDay

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