Can Omega-3s Reduce your Risk of Having a Heart Attack?

Omega-3 fatty acids, naturally found in fish, have been proven to lower blood pressure and promote heart health, but research shows that they may actually have an even stronger benefit: treating cardiovascular diseases and reducing the risk of repeat heart attacks.

Ochsner’s Carl “Chip” Lavie, MD, Medical Director Cardiac Rehabilitation and Prevention published a study in The American Journal of the College of Cardiology (August 2009) that established three, new benefits to consuming omega-3 fish oils based on four trials and over 40,000 participants.

  1. Omega-3 fish oils may prevent cardiovascular disease
  2. Omega-3 fish oils may benefit in the treatment after a heart attack
  3. Heart attack survivors may be able to reduce their risk of a fatal episode by as much as 30 percent, by consuming oily fish or taking supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids.

“Consuming fish oil is both a safe and relatively inexpensive therapy to prevent cardiovascular complications,” says Lavie. “We’re finding that increased intake of fish oils will improve electrical activity and platelet stabilization, which is cardiovascular prevention at its best.”  Omega-3 fatty acids have already been proven to help promote healthy heart rhythms, lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots.

Lavie recommends that daily, healthy individuals consume 500 mg of omega-3 fish oil containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and individuals with known heart disease or heart failure take 800 to 1,000 mg every day. He says, the fatty acids EPA and DHA enter the membranes of cells and help to improve the heart's electrical activity, vascular tone, plaque stabilization and blood pressure.

"We now have tremendous and compelling evidence from very large studies, some dating back 20 and 30 years, that demonstrate the protective benefits of omega-3 fish oil for both individuals with and without heart disease," says Lavie. “However, the strongest evidence of a cardio-protective effect of omega-3s appears in patients with established cardiovascular disease and following a heart attack, with up to a 30 percent reduction in cardiovascular related death with the implementation of omega-3s.”

Patients should talk with their doctors about whether a fish oil supplement is needed to protect their heart from cardiovascular disease. For more information about how Omega-3s can improve heart health click here.