Sunday, May 23, 2010

Body by Track Your Plaque?!

Although there are several exercise guidelines there really is no "Track Your Plaque" exercise program, but if there was one it would probably be a lot like the one that produced the picture at left. Yup, that is skinny, old (and getting older every day) HeartHawk after just 90 days (one with my head chopped off and one with my trademark sunglasses, to remain incognito). No "P90X" discs, no personal trainer, no high tech equipment, just some basic Track Your Plaque principles and a scare followed by a commitment. Read on!

I recently saw my endocrinologist who looked at my OGTT and HbA1c and proclaimed, "You're insulin resistant and prediabetic!" Looking for him to prescribe some new wonder drug, supplement, or spartan diet recommendations I asked, "So what can I do about it?" "Exercise!" was his one word reply which he repeated often. What? As a Track Your Plaque devotee I am used to heart scans, advanced lipoprotein testing, exotic supplements and all the bleeding-edge science that comes along with it. The more I objected and insisted there must be more we can do beyond "exercise" the more he insisted, "Exercise!" Finally, as the frustration grew in both of us he loudly blurted, "Look, you GOTTA exercise!"

Now, I had always gotten SOME exercise. Heck, at 55 years old I still kept up with guys on the basketball court one-third my age - once a week - and there was the problem. How much exercise was needed? A lot more: 30 minutes, 5 times per week, at 70% of my maximum heart rate. Well, like everything else I thought I might as well go "whole hog" and see what I could do. I was going to do 45 minutes per day, a minimum of 5 days per week (averaging closer to 6 days) and I was going to throw in some resistance training every other day.

Guess what, my blood sugar is lower and I even got a little muscle definition after a life of being a "bean-pole." I may actually take my shirt off this summer! The point I am trying to make is that exercise is an ESSENTIAL part of Track Your Plaque or any health program for that matter - and you don't need expensive DVDs or equipment, just a commitment to developing a daily habit to just do it!

Now, I won't kid you. It is often boring and tiring (but not a lot after a few weeks), and it is definitely not as much fun or easy as other things you might do instead (like eating and sleeping). But, if an underweight, old enough to join AARP, sit on my butt behind a computer all day kind of guy like me can do it, so can you! Vigorous exercise lowers your cholesterol, your blood pressure, your blood sugar (to name only a few benefits), and damn, just plain makes ya look better (oh yeah, I can rebound better too - though it didn't help my shot much unfortunately)! What else can do all that?!

Looking out for your heart health,



Anonymous said...

You look great! I'm about your age and trying to get the lean, ripped shape you have. I'm wondering about your carb intake and if you eat much sat fat? I need to lose around 10 pounds so I've been limiting carbs to 100 per day and have replaced some of those calories with more fat, especially sat fat. I keep total calories between 1800 and 2000.
I'd appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

HeartHawk said...


Thanks! I gotta tell ya it broke down to two things.

1. I went as low carb as I could - no wheat, no sugar, no sugary fruits - veggies and berries only - probably under 60g carbs per day or less (and I still miss the bread and junk food). I was skeletal to begin with and 10 pounds came right off. People thought I was dying of cancer. It was one of the reasons I added resistance training to add back some weight. Track Your Plaque doesn't exactly prescribe Sat Fat but doesn't demonize it either (just wheat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup and other high glycemic index carbs). Just don't over-do it (but go mono and poly fat when possible). You still have to limit calories and it sounds like you do. Also, your ApoE type and blood sugar will dicatate your ability to clear fats and handle carbs. I am ApoE2 so fat is no problem for me. ApoE4 people have a more difficult time and may need more fat restriction. Similarly, if you are insulin resistant or diabetic carbs will be extra tough (like me). Of course, the exercise will help correct some of that. Losing body fat makes whatever muscle you gain really pop - even for skinny guys - especially around the waist (think "six-pack!).

2. Exercise everyday if you can. Create a sense of self-loathing if you don't. For the first 90 days it became my #1 priority. Again, no DVDs, nothing fancy, just low-carb and an umwavering commitment to 45 minutes a day! I can't tell you the years, no decades, I promised myself that, "This will be the year I get in shape for summer" but never did it as winters rolled into springs. It took a health scare to get me off my ass!

I know I am healthier for all the work I put in but damn, the ripped look was a bonus (well, as ripped as a skinny guy like me can get). I look in the mirror after a good pump and it is a total WTF, is that me?! LOL! It was my daughter who came home from college this weekend (just graduated) and took the pictures I posted! For the first time in my life I don't feel self-conscious about my body. Now, if only I could do something about the receding hairline, wrinkles, etc.!



onewaypockets said...

Hi HH,

You look great...and already for a Milwaukee summer! That does not look like the body of a man with cardiac calcium and pre-diabetes!

I have the same problem when losing weight, I lose muscle faster than fat. My anti-aging doctor runs an electrical measurement at every 6 month visit. He said last time something like "good news, you lost 20lbs, but the bad news was it was all muscle. So, actually your body fat percentage went up!" Thanks doc! So like you, weights have to be the way.

Thanks for sharing HH,


HeartHawk said...


Thanks! It really is all about developing healthy habits. 45 minutes a day is really not that much - but ya gotta do something almost every day be it cardio or resistance. You also don't need all those expensive infomercial DVDs and equipment - dumbells, perhaps a weight bench, that's it!

I gotta tell ya tho', I was surprised as hell at the visible results. I was the proverbial skinny dude. To have any definition at all boggles my mind and still casuses a double take every time I pass a mirror. Damn, if I were only 30 years younger, lol! Shrinking the images to fit on the blog hides a lot of wrinkles and age spots, lmao!


Dr. B G said...


I must restrain myself *wink*


STRONG WORK my dear!!!!

You were super hot to begin with... this just adds to your already dynamic character...

Love always,

HeartHawk said...


Thanks, strong praise from the woman who whipped herself into shape way before me!

Now, what's the formula to become young and rich to complete the package, lol?!

Don't stop holding down the low carb, heart healthy front on the "Left Coast!" We're still watching you!

Here's lookin' at ya!


Peter in Saudi said...

Heart in the past you said you have low HDL. Well has the exercise pumped up the HDL??

HeartHawk said...


Haven't had the lipids tested since I started the exercise regimen but you can be certain I will post them when I do!


Maris said...

My cardiologist has been telling me the exact same thing for more than a year now every time I have my scheduled check-up, and up until now his words have yet to sink in. Having lived a sedentary albeit intellectually creative lifestyle, getting my butt to move is much easier if i were to let my imagination do it for me instead. But as i near my mid-30's and begin to feel the encroaching fear of coming down with serious heart disease and not just hypertension, i am now beginning to panic about getting my lazy arse in the gym asap!

HeartHawk said...


Your story is very similar to mine. For years it was always going to be next summer, next year, next whatever. My mental pursuits were always first - or was it second to procrastination and laziness?

The only way I know of to develop the "exercise habit" is to make it a priority. It also helps if it can be fun or a social experience like basketball is for me (I'd play every day if it were practical). Frankly, the other stuff is boring (stationary bike, weights, et al) so I time workouts to coincide with something on TV I want to see or reading (tough but doable when biking).

We all know the numerous health benefits of exercise so I won't bother repeating them. But let me be honest, I like the way it looks too (I also suggest installing the full lenght mirror - narcissism can be a powerful ally)!

Finally, you don't a gym. My results were all accomplished at home. I've had health club memberships but getting to and from the gym simply became another impediment. Over the long haul your money would be better spent buying simply things like a treadmill or stationary bike and weights. Of course, if the extra amenities or being around people creates a social or psychological incentive then go for it (you will also have more than just a mirror to show off your results to)!

Again, just do it! You will be both healthier and happier! I know I wish I had done it at 35 rather than 55!



james kildare said...

we always know the major symptoms, as no one is free of suffering, remember that these cause chronic pain if not treated properly.

Davide said...


Is your insulin resistance due to niacin treatment?

The reason why I ask is because I'm considering taking niacin to lower small LDL, but I'm concerned about the potential insulin resistance. Your thoughts? thanks!


HeartHawk said...


I stopped the niacin for six months following that same line of thought. No change in glycemic response. I have started back up on 2g niacin - again with no observable change.

It has been well-documented that niacin can mildly elevate blood sugars in some cases. My guess is because niacin has such a profound effect on the liver any noticeable glycemic response probably has to due with glucagon control in the liver but that's just a guess.


Davide said...

Heart Hawk,

Thanks so much for your response! I do have another question for you (not related to this post), but I don't know who else to ask, as it seems that most doctors today are not entirely familiar with the most current information on lipoprotein testing.

How dangerous is a very high amount of large LDL-C in relation to LDL-particle number? I'm 29 and genetically have very high LDL (226) with a high particle number (2021). Is LDL-P the only thing that really matters, or is total large LDL-C an additional risk factor.

To give you context, I have mostly large LDL, high HDL-P, low Tri, low Apo(a).

I guess my question is this: Is grossly elevated amount of large LDL a risk factor in and of itself? Of course, most conventional doctors will say "yes," but I'm curious about your thoughts.

(The reason why I ask is because I have been able to substantially lower my LDL-P in the past just by avoiding sugar/refined carbs, even though my LDL-C remains very high. I'm wondering if only lowering my LDL-P is sufficient or must I take a stating to lower my total LDL-C. Thanks for your help!

HeartHawk said...


Great questions on a still not completely understood subject. Here is a synopsis.

Because LDL cholestrol is found in plaque it is assumed to be a "bad" thing and there are plenty of studies showing that LDL cholesterol reduction can be a good thing. But that knowledge only goes so far. The fact is you need cholestrol to live. Another inconvenient fact is that the average LDL cholestrol of people with and without heart attacks is STATISTICALLY IDENTICAL (131 vs 134 mg/dL)!

Another confusing factor is the idea of measuring LDL in weight per blood volume (e.g. mg/dL) versus particles per blood volume (e.g. nmol/L). Having an LDL of 134 mg/dL composed of a large number of small particles (lower weight per particle) is thought to be significantly more atherogenic that the same LDL weight composed of fewer large (higher weight) particles. It is reasoned that small particles more easily penetrate the artery wall to accumulate and grow plaques (not exactly in this manner but you get the concept).

I would attack the problem this way.

1. Get your Small LDL particle number as low as possible (at least under 500 nmol/L). Low-carbing and fish oil work great for this. I reduced my Small LDL 60% JUST BY LOW CARBING (and this was AFTER dropping niacin). Also, don't get caught up in reducing Small LDL as percentage of total LDL particles. This is only a guideline. It is the number of Small LDL particles that cause the problem not the percentage of total. For, example, my Small LDL particle count was consistently around 250 with a total LDL particle count of about 500. That's 50% ratio which is considered high - but that guideline is based on a population where the average total LDL count is over 1000! Although my percentage is high it is a percentage of a much lower number than the AVERAGE guy. Again, it is the Small LDL particles NOT the percentage of total that causes problems. By the way, low-carbing dropped my Small LDL count to below 100!

2. A ratio that is important is LDL to HDL (whether by weight or by particle count). It is thought than HDL serves as a reverse cholesterol transport mechansim actually pulling cholesterol out of plaque. A ratio of 1:1 is ideal. Anything below 2:1 is pretty good. I am generally 1.5 or lower. Also, unlike Small LDL, you want a significant portion of your HDL particles to be the "large" type that does most of the work. Anything above 5 umol/L of large HDL particles puts you in the upper end of the population.

3. Keep your TGs low (again, low-carb, fish oil, niacin, or fibrates)

It sounds like you are doing the above. So, yes, in a nutshell, you are generally considered to be "safer" if your absolute Small LDL particle counts are extremely low without respect to total LDL - but few docs will say this or have even read the research. Still, my advice and practice is to bring total LDL low as well because - well - we just don't REALLY know! I would not personally be happy with total LDLs of over 200 mg/dL and 2000 nmol/L and would attempt to cut those numbers in half even if it required statins and/or large doses of niacin. That being said, Small LDL control versus total LDL control as a primary goal seems to be the best bet based on current knowledge.


Davide said...

Thanks for the advice!

Yeah, without watching my sugar/carbs at all, my small LDL-P is 640. Last year when I totally avoided sugar/refined carbs, it went down to almost nothing. My current HDL-C is good (69) and large HDL-P is 28.

The problem is my LDL-P. Even when I lower it to a modest level (1,200), my LDL-C remains high (around 190). I just hate to take a statin just for that, if large LDL-particles are generally benign. Like you said, I guess there's now way to no for sure with the current research available.

I think I'm going try niacin first and see how it works for me.

Davide said... large HDL is 8.5 umol/L not 28!

Rinkesh said...

Pretty Interesting post. Couldnt be written any better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!
coughing up blood
Rush Poppers

vitamin c said...

You are a great example and my father should follow your path and of course with the help of Track your Plaque program. I already visited their site but I still have to convince my dad. I don't want him to do it because I told him to do it, the decision should come from him.

pammi said...

Heart disease is one of the most dangerous disease which takes thousands of life every years all over the world. If we know its symptoms and Treatment for heart disease. We can prevent is to large extent.

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You know muscle confusion supposedly prevents the body from adapting to exercises over time, resulting in continual improvement without plateaus custom term paper services

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I started to do some pilates and I was too skeptic about it, but so far I have seen pretty good results and I will stick to the pilates plan

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I think this would be better than any weight training since as you build muscle you become more dense and gain a better workout

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Sifter said...

Serious question, not trolling.... do you feel any of the TYP recommendations or protocol may have contributed to your 'prediabetic' condition as stated at the top of your post? Dr. Davis is very persuasive, but I also find myself agreeing with things like no Blue Zone group of long-lived populations eat like this. They seem to eat starches, carbs (not our American chips and bagels, but carbs) etc. Any thoughts? thank you.

HeartHawk said...


No, quite the opposite. I think without TYP guidance I would be a full-blown diabetic now!

I was low-fat before then switched to low-carb (and against everything I read from Doc Ornish). Doc Davis turned out to be right - at least for me. Of course, I am also an ApoE2/3 genotype so carbs are poison for me.


Paul Smith said...

I'm about to follow your exercise program! I just wanted to ask you a question! How do you feel after these exercises? And what time do you usually do these exercises? You look great! Any suggestions are appreciated! Thanks! Connecting with me is possible through this site!

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