The vitamin should be taken as soon after a heart attack as possible, either in the home, in the ambulance on the way to hospital or in the emergency room, say researchers from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia.
The vitamin's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities can help protect heart tissue damaged by a heart attack. Earlier studies had shown the vitamin couldn't prevent a heart attack, but the Baker researchers say it could prove to be the first thing administered after an attack.
The researchers are still testing their theory and are planning to scan the hearts of patients to see if vitamin E offers protection, but they are confident they will see positive results.
There isn't any drug that can reduce damage after an attack, and researcher Maria Wallert says positive results would have a profound impact on the way heart attacks are treated.
The researchers are using standard doses of the vitamin that are safe for people to take, they say.