Scientists have identified a powerful antioxidant that may lower the risk of a second heart attack or stroke, paving the way for new treatments for the disorders. A study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that treating mice that had experienced a heart attack or stroke with the antioxidant apocynin cut plaque buildup in half and lowered inflammation to pre-attack levels. Doctors have long known that in the months after a heart attack or stroke, patients are more likely to have another attack or stroke, said researchers from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in the US.
The study explains what happens inside blood vessels to increase risk and suggests a new way to treat it. Heart attacks in mice caused inflammatory cells and platelets to more easily stick to the inner lining of arteries throughout the body, and particularly where there was already plaque, researchers said. As a result, these sticky cells and platelets caused plaque to become unstable and contribute to blood clots that led to another heart attack or stroke, they said.
“Knowing that newer forms of antioxidants such as apocynin can lower the risk of a second heart attack or stroke gives us a new treatment to explore and could one day help reduce heart attacks and strokes,” said Jonathan R Lindner, a professor at the OHSU School of Medicine. The researchers discovered the sticky cells and platelets by using unique forms of ultrasound imaging they developed to view molecules on the lining of blood vessels.