May 26, 2011 — Combining two blood-thinning drugs with omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart attack for people with stents in their arteries, a new study shows.
The combination of omega-3s plus blood thinners may significantly change the blood-clotting process, according to researchers.
People who have stents are at risk of blood clots forming where the stent is placed. Blood thinners are given to reduce the risk of blood clots.
One purpose of the study was to determine what effects omega-3s might add to those of the blood thinning drugs aspirin and clopidogrel.
Foods rich in omega-3, such as salmon and other oily fish, have been shown in other studies to reduce the risk of heart problems in people with coronary artery disease.
In the new study, published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, participants were given omega-3s in pill form and also encouraged to increase their consumption of oily fish.
The study found that patients who took omega-3 pills along with aspirin and clopidogrel had blood clots that were more susceptible to destruction than patients who received only the two blood thinners.
Evaluating the Effects of Omega-3
Grzegorz Gajos, MD, PhD, of Jagiellonian University in Poland, and fellow researchers studied 54 patients at John Paul II Hospital in Krakow. Participants included 41 men and 13 women with an average age of 62.8.
The study evaluated the effects of omega-3 in patients with stable coronary artery disease who had had their clogged arteries opened by a catheter procedure, with a stent inserted to keep the vessels opened.
Previously, the researchers had reported that adding omega-3s to clopidogrel after stenting significantly lowered the blood’s clotting ability.
For the latest study, 24 patients were randomly selected as a comparison group and 30 for treatment before their stent procedures. Both groups received the same daily doses of aspirin and clopidogrel for four weeks after their stents were implanted.
The treatment group also received 1,000 milligrams of omega-3 daily, and the comparison group got a placebo.
Those treated with omega-3s produced less of a clotting factor called thrombin, and formed clots with an altered structure that made them easier to disrupt.
“Our study suggests that combined moderate anti-thrombotic and anti-platelet actions of omega-3, when added to those of other treatments, may improve outcomes for coronary artery disease patients,” Gajos says.
“There are no other studies on omega-3 effects in patients who were already being treated with optimal medical therapy after stent placement,” Gajos says. “This was a proof of concept study. We were looking for any effect and what it might be.”