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Eating Fish Can Reduce Your Risk of Developing Heart Disease

by Ravi U Pande, MD and Andrew Freeman
Posted: February 16

Eating fish can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, both in patients with a history of coronary heart disease and in healthy people, the American Heart Association states. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association, published in the recent issue of Circulation, has analyzed different clinical trails in the context of fish consumption and the risk of developing heart disease.

Fish Consumption and Cardiovascular Death

Several multinational studies have shown that fish consumption is associated with a reduced risk from all-cause death from ischemic heart disease and stroke.

The Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Many other studies have reported that men who eat at least some fish weekly have a lower death rate from coronary heart disease (CHD) than men who eat no fish at all.

However the crucial ingredient in fish is omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a range of positive effects on health. These omega-3 fatty acids are found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel. It has been found that a one gram daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of death from a sudden heart attack by almost half.

Is There a Relationship Between Omega Fatty Acids and Irregular Heart Beats?

Yes. Omega-3 fatty acids also appear to reduce the problem of irregular heartbeats in patients who have a condition called cardiac arrhythmias. This can be explained by a theory that irregular heartbeats are linked to an imbalance between two omega fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant seed cooking oils. This is a very important recent clue, as there is hardly any evidence of successful treatment for irregular heart beats except by medications which have significant side effects.

What Are The Current AHA Recmmendations?

The authors of this current article recommend that patients with coronary artery disease (in consultation with their physicians) could consider dietary supplements of omega-3 fatty acids for heart disease risk reduction. They further state that supplements also could be a component of the medical management of hypertriglyceridemia (increased triglyceride levels), a setting in which even larger doses of omega-3 fatty acids (2 to 4 g/d) are required. The availability of high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplements, free of contaminants, is an important prerequisite to their extensive use.

How Many Servings of Fish Should I Eat?

The article supports the recommendation made by the American Heart Association Dietary Guidelines to include at least two servings of fish per week, especially, a fatty fish. Inclusion of vegetable oils (eg, soybean, canola, walnut, flaxseed) and food sources high in linolenic acid (eg, walnuts, flaxseeds) in a healthy diet for the general population can also help reduce risk of heart disease.

However, the fish recommendation must be balanced with concerns about environmental pollutants, in particular PCB and methylmercury, described in state and federal advisories. The potential adverse effect of these environmental pollutants can be lowered by consuming a variety of fish.

These recommendations should be instituted in your diet after a consultation with your primary care physician, cardiologist or cardiovascular specialist.

Fish Consumption, Fish Oil, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and Cardiovascular Disease, Circulation 106: 2747 - 2757

Date of Article Publication:
2002, November

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