The gradual accumulation of fatty deposits, called plaques, within arteries is the hallmark of atherosclerosis – a condition associated with a high-risk of angina, heart attack and stroke. While the level of cholesterol in a person’s blood is a good indicator of their risk of developing atherosclerosis, it is possible to have high cholesterol for a long time without a heart attack. It’s now clear, however, that when cholesterol deposits harden into crystals – like the artifically-coloured ones pictured – the risk of a heart attack or stroke ramp up considerably. A recent study showed that of 240 patients admitted to emergency rooms for heart attacks, 89 percent had excessive amounts of crystallised cholesterol blocking their coronary arteries. Medications to dissolve these crystals could help patients at the highest risk, but sticking to a healthy diet and exercise regime should help to prevent their formation in the first place.
Written by Ruth Williams
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