Researchers from Michigan State University had reported in the latest edition of Clinical Cardiology that cholesterol deposits could cause bursting of arterial walls that may lead to heart attacks, stroke or any number of cardiovascular diseases.
The study finds that cholesterol that has built up along the wall of an artery and crystallized from a liquid to a solid state can expand and then burst, sending material into the bloodstream. It is this chain of events - the expansion of the liquid cholesterol as it crystallizes into a solid - that kick-start the body's natural clotting process that, unfortunately in this case, works against the body, essentially shutting down the artery.
It is the presence of the cholesterol crystals and other debris material released by the plaque rupture into the bloodstream that activates the clotting mechanism.
Researchers had compared the crystallization of the cholesterol to putting a plastic bottle of water into a freezer. Over time the water freezes and expands, pushing its way out of the bottle or breaking the bottle altogether.
What this work also means is that physicians and other health care providers now have another weapon in their arsenal against cardiovascular disease.
Researchers had stressed that it remains imperative that people use diet and exercise to keep cholesterol levels low.
Essentially, the researchers took varying amounts of cholesterol, reduced it to a liquid form, and then watched it expand as it solidified. In doing so, it tore through thin biological membranes. After the cholesterol crystallized, its volume was about 45 percent larger than what they started with.