Can omega-3 improve your heart health? It’s not fishy anymore, it’s got legs!

27 January 2023
Three Generations web

Wesley Hospital Consultant Cardiologist Associate Professor, David Colquhoun along with other senior Brisbane Cardiologists have been studying the use of omega-3 supplementation to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that depend almost entirely on oral intake, with very little production within the body.

The most important are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which are most commonly found in fish and other seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines).

These foods lower the risk of cardiovascular events by lowering triglycerides in the blood, they also have anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties, membrane stabilisation and antiarrhythmic mechanisms which can improve overall heart health and function.

Associate Professor Colquhoun explains clinical research has demonstrated a positive relationship between taking omega-3 EPA/DHA supplements and reduced risk of heart attack or sudden death from cardiac disease.

“It is omeda-3 from EPA and DHA that are critical for human health and can be measured in blood tests determining a percentage of these fatty acids in the phospholipid membrane of red blood cells. This index reflects tissue levels throughout our bodies,” he said.

“An omega-3 index of 8% or greater is associated with very low risk of sudden cardiac death, compared to those with an index of 4% or less which reflected a 90% lower risk of sudden death in a sample size of 40,000 patients over 15 years.

“In treatment of people who have very high triglycerides (greater than 10mmol/L), high-dose omega-3 fish oil at 4000mg (4g) per day reduces triglycerides by 30% or greater.”

Associate Professor Colquhoun said the research demonstrated patients with low omega-3 index and hypertriglyceridemia are the most likely group to benefit from supplementation.

“While these results are promising people should not try to manage their heart health in isolation. I would recommend having an annual heart health check with a general practitioner (GP),” he said.

“I believe It is important in this day and age to consider having the heart and arteries x-rayed every five years for the coronary calcium score to indicate risk of potential heart attack.

“Your GP can then make recommendations on ways you can improve your heart health as an omega-3 supplement could potentially be beneficial to improving heart health but should be taken under the direction of a doctor with progress monitored regularly.”

Associate Professor Colquhoun said this is important as there greater than sixty risk factors and disorders that could put a person’s heart as risk including hypothyroidism or type 2 diabetes for example.

“In summary making improvements to your diet by including more fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds is excellent but avoid taking most over the counter supplements without consulting your health care provider first as most can have little to no benefit,” A/Prof Colquhoun said.

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