Eating more foods with omega-3 fatty acids or taking supplements could prevent strokes or make treatment safer for people with unstable carotid artery plaque. Researchers at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center (LSUHSC) found such unstable plaques contain more inflammation and less omega-3 fatty acids than asymptomatic plaques (those not in danger of rupturing and leading to a stroke). Lead researcher Dr. Hernan A. Bazan, assistant professor of surgery in LSUHSC's section of vascular surgery, and researchers from Yale University and LSU published their study in the online journal Vascular Pharmacology.
Doctors don't fully understand what leads to plaque rupture in the carotid artery, but they do know it can lead to strokes, vision loss (if the rupture affects the artery to the retina) or transient ischemic attacks, mini-strokes caused by a temporary interruption of the blood supply to the brain. They also believe that inflammation within the plaque is an important cause of plaque rupture.
In analyzing plaques removed from 41 patients, they found the plaques of patients with no neurological symptoms from plaque buildup contained significantly more of two kinds of omega-3 fatty acids than patients who had symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of ischemic strokes, those caused by an obstruction in an artery supplying blood to the brain, are caused by carotid artery atherosclerotic plaque. — Graves