Omega-3 fatty acids and heart health go hand in hand. For many years American Heart Association has recommended consuming at least two servings of fatty fish such as salmon, herring and albacore tuna each week. Americans consistently struggle to obtain this amount through diet alone, which is where supplementation comes into play. Cooper Clinic recommends adding a daily serving of 1,200 mg omega-3 fatty acids for the majority of patients.
The scientific evidence identifying omega-3 (particularly polyunsaturated fats – EPA and DHA) as a heart healthy choice is robust both for those who are healthy and those who have cardiovascular disease. Which of the numerous heart diseases, conditions and risk factors does omega-3 help with?
Below is an overview of the current research showing how omega-3 can help your heart.
✔ Lowering Triglycerides
Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in the blood. A certain amount of triglycerides boost health as the body uses them for energy. However, too many triglycerides can cause artery damage and raise the risk of heart disease and stroke. Elevated triglyceride levels are associated with conditions such as obesity, poorly controlled diabetes and metabolic syndrome. A doctor will typically check for high triglycerides as part of a cholesterol test. This blood test will uncover if one has high triglyceride levels, known as hypertriglyceridemia. A normal triglyceride level is less than 150 milligrams per deciliter.
The ability of omega-3s to apparently reduce high triglyceride levels is thought to be one of its most important health contributions. Multiple studies have shown omega-3 from both diet and supplements can help reduce levels significantly, potentially 20 to 50 percent. American Heart Association states those with high triglycerides need higher than average amounts of omega-3. If you have high triglycerides, talk to your doctor about the dosage best for you and other treatments that may be necessary.
To learn more about triglycerides and treatment recommendations, read this American Heart Association publication.
✔ Lowering Blood Pressure
While studies show consuming omega-3 in fish oil can modestly reduce high blood pressure, the impact on your health is significant. High blood pressure (hypertension) can remain symptom-free for many years, but damage to blood vessels and the heart persist even if the condition is undetected. This makes hypertension a serious risk factor for heart problems including stroke and heart attack.
A review of clinic research suggests omega-3 consumption generally lowers systolic blood pressure (the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating) by 2.5 to 5.5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats) by 1.5 to 3.5 mmHg. The higher one’s blood pressure is and the longer it goes uncontrolled, the greater the damage is for the body. Making the necessary changes to lower the numbers can make a great impact on one’s risk of serious heart conditions and complications.
According to American Diabetes Association, heart disease risk greatly increases for those with diabetes. In fact, heart attacks and strokes happen more than twice as often in individuals who have diabetes than those without the condition. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports diabetics may also develop heart disease at a younger age and/or develop more severe heart disease.
With diabetes, the body’s sugar (glucose) level is elevated to an unhealthy point. Research shows omega-3 does not affect blood sugar levels. However, because omega-3 helps reduce triglycerides in diabetic patients–helping protect against heart disease–it can be beneficial to those who have diabetes.
✖ Atrial Fibrillation/Irregular Heartbeat
Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). With Afib the heart can race as fast as 150 beats per minutes, whereas a normal heart beat is about 70 beats per minute. Millions of Americans live with the condition and many do not realize it introduces serious dangers for the heart.
While the evidence has been somewhat conflicting, overall it seems that taking fish oil does not prevent or help treat Afib. Multiple studies have confirmed fish oil showed no more ability to decrease irregular heart beat episodes than a placebo. To learn more about successful Afib treatment and prevention, read this article by American Heart Association and schedule a time to speak with your physician.
✔ Overall Mortality
As is commonly known, heart disease is the number one cause of death in America. For many, death is the first symptom of the disease. Encouraging scientific research found a consistent dose of omega-3 significantly lowered overall mortality rate. In one analysis of patients with existing cardiovascular disease, fish oil consumption reduced the mortality risk by 20 percent. Discovering this noteworthy risk reduction certainly incentivizes both heart disease patients and the healthy to add omega-3 to their diets.
Article provided by Jill Turner