Cholesterol crystals up risk of heart attack: Study

Washington D.C.:A study has warned that cholesterol crystals may increase the risk of heart attack.

According to researchers, simply controlling one’s cholesterol by eating a healthy diet, exercising and taking statin medications as needed, could be the best way to prevent these crystals from forming.

Lead author George Abela found that 89 percent of coronary arteries of patients, who had suffered a heart attack, had an excessive amount of crystallized structures, referred to as cholesterol crystals.

Abela added that when cholesterol goes from a liquid to a solid, or crystal state, it expands in volume like ice and water and this expansion inside the wall of the artery can tear it and block blood flow causing a heart attack or stroke.

Researchers from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan analysed 240 emergency room patients to show how the role of a person’s cholesterol, when in a crystallized state, plays during a heart attack.

These crystals are released from plaque that can build up in the heart and is often made up of fat, calcium and other substances as well. When this material hardens over time in the arteries, it’s known as atherosclerosis.

After heart attack the patients entered the emergency room, and the team suctioned out this plaque.

They were able to see that clusters of large crystals had formed and were able to break through the plaque and walls of the arteries and then released into the heart. This caused damage by blocking blood flow.

Some of these treatments can include the use of statin drugs – often used to lower one’s cholesterol – aspirin and solvents such as alcohol that can be injected in low doses into a vein during a heart attack. Using these options could allow doctors to improve patient outcomes and save more lives.

The research is published online in the American Journal of Cardiology.