A supplement of B vitamins may lower the risks of heart attack, repeat surgery and death for patients who have undergone the heart surgery angioplasty, say researchers from the University of California, San Diego. In the new study, patients who took folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 for 6 months fared better after one year, compared with patients who did not take the vitamin combination.
The B vitamins used in the study are known to lower blood levels of homocysteine, a by-product of protein metabolism that is associated with increased risk of heart disease, although the precise mechanisms are not well understood. Among patients who have had angioplasty, in which a balloon-tipped catheter is threaded into an artery to push aside fatty deposits, elevated homocysteine may lead to re-narrowing of the arteries.
The study included 553 angioplasty patients who took a daily regimen of 1 milligram (mg) of folic acid, 400 micrograms of vitamin B12 and 10 mg of vitamin B6, or placebo (inactive) pills for 6 months following surgery. Nearly one year later, the combined risk of death, heart attack and repeat surgery was less than 16% among those who took the vitamin combination, compared with about 23% among those on placebo. When the researchers looked at deaths and heart attacks individually, they found a "trend" toward lower rates of both among vitamin-treated patients. Patients with the highest total cholesterol levels and the most elevated LDL ("bad") cholesterol saw the greatest drop in their need for repeat surgery on the same lesion. And there were no major side effects to the vitamin regimen.
At this point, it is not clear whether taking the vitamins for more than 6 months would provide an additional benefit.
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