cooked salmon slices

Fish and Fish Oil May Lower Your Risk of Heart Attack

The risk of heart attacks have become very real in American society, where obesity is a raging epidemic, and junk food and overconsumption of sugar have become the norm.

A heart attack occurs when an artery that carries blood to the heart becomes blocked or bursts, preventing blood flow from reaching the heart, causing heart tissue to lose oxygen and subsequently die. 

Artery blockages occur gradually, through a general thickening and plaque buildup from excess cholesterol and fat, making a healthy diet and lifestyle, one of the best things you can do to avoid a heart attack. 

Most of the time, heart attacks occur slowly and over time, and in this, it is important to understand the symptoms that may signal a heart attack, so that you can act quickly.

Many symptoms of heart attack include waves of some sort of pressure or pain in the center of your chest, discomfort or pain in one or both of your arms, neck, back, or jaw, shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. 

Having these symptoms does not mean you are having a heart attack, but by knowing them, you can choose to act.

It is always better to get to a hospital and be told you are not having a heart attack, than to ignore your body’s signals and further increase the severity of the attack; the longer your arteries are blocked, the more permanent the damage will be. 

Once you are at a hospital, they will be able to unblock the problematic artery, which will save your life.

Heart Attack and Fish

As I mentioned earlier, the best, and truly the only, deterrent of a heart attack is a healthy diet and lifestyle. This means relatively regular exercise, lower consumption of processed food and sugar, and higher consumption of whole foods, fruits, and vegetables. 

Now, there isn’t any one magical substance that will save you from the risk of a heart attack, it is rather a combination of things, hence the term healthy lifestyle.’ 

But, there is one thing that should be included in your diet that may have properties that greatly reduce your risk of heart attack: fish and fish oil.

This news comes at the conclusion of a pair of Harvard-led clinical trials that were conducted in 2018. The study found, mainly among black people and people who did not regularly eat fish that increased consumption of fish resulted in fewer heart attacks.

The main reasons for this are due to the high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids that are commonly found in fish. The study found that, among people that were at risk for heart attack, consumption of Omega-3s in their pure form resulted in a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.

This study marks the first time that the heart-benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are confirmed with legitimate, firm evidence. The lead researcher for the trials does not suggest that everyone begin taking fish oil supplements, however. 

The best thing to do is really to consume more fish, and therefore obtain your omega-3s in a natural way, which is better absorbed by your body. If you don’t eat fish, and think that taking a supplement might benefit you, you should always talk to your doctor about it first.

The Trials

The trial studied over 25,000 American men and women over the age of 50 who did not have a history of heart attacks. 

They were randomly assigned to take either a gram of fish oil daily, 2,000 International Units of Vitamin D daily, or a placebo. 

The results, after a 5-year follow up, concluded that taking a daily fish oil supplement reduced the risk of heart attack by 28%. The chances of those same participants getting cancer or having a stroke were strangely unaffected.

The group in which these results were the strongest were among those who did not usually or regularly consume fish. Their numbers involved a 19% reduction in risk of any major cardiovascular events, as well as a 40% reduction in the risk of heart attack. 

In addition, black participants experienced a 77% reduction in risk of heart attack, which can potentially lead to huge strides in reducing health inequality, as black people are historically at a higher risk of heart disease than other racial groups.

The trial further found that the daily vitamin D supplement did little or nothing to reduce the risk of heart attack, although it did reduce the risk of cancer by 25%, a relatively significant figure.

The numbers that resulted from these trials, specifically those that pertain to the fish oil trials, are immensely significant in combating heart disease.

Another trial, separate from the Harvard trials, tested a different form of the Omega-3 fatty acid called EPA. This is a form of prescription medicine that is often used by people with high cholesterol to reduce their levels of triglycerides.

The results from this trial are just as impressive as those that came from the Harvard trials; people taking EPA had a 20% reduction in the risk of death by heart-related factors, a 31% reduction in their risk of heart attack, and a 28% reduction in their risk of stroke.

The Conclusions

The big conclusions of these trials center around the powerfully healthful benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce inflammation, stabilize heart rhythm, reduce triglyceride levels, and decrease blood-clotting. 

Because of its ability to decrease clots in the blood, omega-3s are a known blood thinner, an important reason to talk to your doctor before beginning to take fish oil supplements. If you are already on blood thinners, taking fish oil supplements can be incredibly dangerous.

The best way to benefit from these Omega-3s is naturally, from fish like Salmon, which has some of the highest levels of Omega-3s, with 3.2 grams of Omega-3s per 150 grams of fish. Eating fish just twice a week can be hugely beneficial in reducing your risk of heart attack.

Even when considering the results from these studies, it is still important to note again that there is not one magical substance to avoid a heart attack. Eating fish alone may reduce your risk, but it won’t necessarily save you. 

Your best bet is a healthy lifestyle (yes, I do mean less sweets and more exercise), which will do a lot more for your quality of life than merely reducing your risk of heart attack.

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.  

Get in touch: [email protected]