During the month of March I had the good fortune of visiting one of my favourite medical labs in Birmingham, Alabama. Atherotech is the industry leader for early identification and successful management of cardiometabolic disease. They run standard blood tests as well as their signature lipid analysis called the VAP. VAP stands for Vertical Auto Profile technology.
I was met with all the hospitality of the deep south, by my favourite educator Kenneth French. For three hours he gave me a guided tour of the lab and then reviewed the science behind the VAP test. We only were able to tour half the lab in that time!
Atherotech is one of its kind, measuring the actual levels of the lipids in the blood. They have a large footprint in their lab dedicated to doing this one test at an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars. They receive blood samples from around the world as no other heart lab offers the accuracy of this test. I saw blood samples just like mine, arrive by FedEX first thing in the morning. The samples are recorded and then centrifuged vertically at 60,000 rpm for 45 minutes. The specialized plastic tube they use for this has to withstand this force. This separates all the lipid layers by weight and then they are measured using a light technology. Lipids measured by standard blood tests are a calculation and not actual measurements.
There are several important differences in measuring lipids this way. According to Dr. Davis, who wrote the book “The Wheat Belly”, measuring the size of the LDL and HDL cholesterols is important to see how predictive they are of a cardiovascular event. Half of the people who have a cardiovascular event have so called normal cholesterol readings. What all of these Heart Labs around the U.S. are trying to discover is what other risk factors do these folks have that are not currently mainstream?
The fact that cholesterol itself causes cardiovascular events is highly controversial and what we see on the VAP testing is that the high levels of LDL cholesterol oxidize the arterial walls and raise an inflammatory marker called Lipoprotein Pla2, implicated in the formation of rupture prone plaque. This inflammatory marker definitely is reduced with the use of statin drugs.
Dr. Davis also finds that when people avoid wheat and gluten, their LDL particle size gets larger, and this is ideal for transporting lipids in the blood, preventing them from inflaming arterial walls. I use this test to confirm that statins are effective for the patient and I also confirm dosages. Some can lower their dosages and still get the desired effects; often I can use natural remedies to get the same effect. There are very few Canadians offering this test to their patients. I am so very happy that I have this tool to help people make decisions about their care plans. It is also one of the best tests to determine insulin resistance, which is the body’s inability to metabolize sugars in the blood efficiently. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for all kinds of inflammatory diseases including diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. Using my treatment plans I am able to show patients their improvement over time.
May is Stroke Awareness Month. By using the VAP testing with Atherotech and other cardiovascular risk parameters such as CRP, homocysteine, vitamin D, GGT and uric acid, I am able to educate patients on how they can help prevent stroke and other cardiovascular events.
Dr. Ingrid Pincott, naturopathic physician, has been practicing since 1985 and can be reached at 250-286-3655 or www.DrPincott.com