Do you know that deficiency in omega-3 is the sixth highest cause of fatalities in the US? This study by Harvard University compared death due to high BP, smoking and other causes and found that a diet rich in omega-3 can prevent around 96,000 deaths per year. This is why the Japanese and Greenland Eskimos suffered fewer heart problems like clogged arteries.
Japanese men living in Japan suffered fewer heart problems like clogged arteries than Japanese men living in the US. This is purely due to one group eating a Japanese diet rich in omega-3 and the other eating an Americanized diet deficient in omega-3. The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in a western diet is 20:1. The optimal levels should be actually 1:1. All omega-6 fats are pro-arrhythmic and deliver bad cholesterol to the arteries. The Lyon Diet Heart Trial found reduced death rates in people who ate a diet low in omega-6.
Omega-3 and Benefits to the Heart
Omega-3 fats are potent defenders of the heart against all forms of heart disease – steady heartbeat, flexible arteries, smooth flow of blood, lowering fat content in the blood and in reducing the risk of sudden death. As per the recommendations of the American Heart Association, a diet rich in fish and fish oil supplements are essential for heart health.
- Adults – Eat fatty fish twice a week
- Those already with heart disease – 1g of EPA+DHA
- Those with high triglyceride levels – 2-4g of EPA+DHA
Here are some of the specific omega-3 heart benefits:
Flexible Arteries : The arteries are like crisscrossing roadways and they need to remain free, flexible and elastic to enable smooth flow of blood to and from the heart. Increased stress levels produce norepinephrine a chemical that causes narrowing and stiffening of arteries. This reduces the blood flow and increases the chances of contracting heart diseases. Omega-3 supplements taken regularly for 6 weeks can improve elasticity of the arteries and counter the problem of thickened arteries. Eicosanoids specifically help with widening of arteries and they are produced by the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3 acids.
Helps in Hypertension : The leading cause of heart disease, hypertension or high blood pressure is also easily preventable. Hypertension results in increased stress levels. This leads to increased pressure of blood flow that causes damage to the arteries and triggers inflammation. Points of excess stress cause wear and tear and form lesions. Plaque forms in these lesions that lead to clogged arteries.
Hypertension stretches out blood vessels and makes them thin out. This causes greater levels of LDL or bad cholesterol getting deposited in the arterial walls. Hypertension also causes blood vessels to burst when under too much pressure. This can cause various conditions – e.g. blindness when blood vessels in the eyes burst.
Prevention of Blood Clots : Omega-3 heart benefits help to prevent blood clots by preventing clustering of blood cells that can lead to hampering smooth flow of blood. Fibrin is a compound that forms blood clots and omega-3 helps to break down fibrin. Triglyceride levels are reduced by fish oil and this helps to prevent clots and heart diseases.
Inflammation : Omega-3 in diet helps to protect such inflammatory conditions and secure heart health. Inflammation causes tiny injuries to the arteries and this causes clogged arteries and damage to the arteries due to formation of plaque. Smoking, high blood pressure and oxidized LDL all cause inflammation. Plaque formation forms a scab and when it ruptures, toxic contents enter the blood and the arteries then circulate these contents resulting in heart disease.
Maintain Proper Heart Rhythm : Proper electric signals help the heart to beat regularly. When fatal rhythms occur, electrical signals go crazy and prevent the heart’s ability to beat normally and pump blood. One of the omega-3 heart benefits is to help maintain proper electrical action. DHA and EPA help to stop dangerous heart beat rhythm and maintain normal heart beat.
Maintain Proper Heart Rate : The heart needs to beat automatically without any thought. Omega-3 fats – mainly DHA – help to maintain optimum heart rate variability. Those on regular fish oil supplements for 12 weeks had a slower heart beat (2 beats per minute). A slower and healthier heart beat aided by omega-3 fats protects us against sudden cardiac arrest. Omega-3 combined with Q10 a coenzyme reduced heart rate and blood pressure in patients with kidney diseases.
Defibrillator : Abnormal heartbeat or ventricular arrhythmia results in cardiac deaths in people with no history of heart disease. A major study conducted by Harvard University’s Alexander Leaf showed how omega-3 helped to prevent sudden cardiac death by nearly 50%.
Arrhythmia : Atrial fibrillation is a hazardous heart rhythm commonly occurring in patients who undergo open-heart surgery. Researchers found that patients who were given fish oil supplements before surgery suffered less risk of atrial fibrillation and spent fewer days in recovery post-surgery. The benefits of omega-3 supplements were comparable to those of heart-stabilizing medications and with the added advantage of no side-effects.
Researchers hope that the same benefits can be enjoyed by patients with defibrillators implanted in them. Anti-arrhythmia drugs cause serious side effects and if omega-3 can provide the same benefits, patients can enjoy better heart health.
A quick recap
Here are some of the omega-3 heart benefits in brief:
- Anti-arrhythmic: Prevention of cardiac arrhythmia
- Anti-atherosclerotic: Preventing building of plaque inside artery linings
- Anti-inflammatory: prevention of inflammation
- Decreases high blood pressure
- Growth of new blood vessels is aided by improving endothelial function
- Triglyceride concentration is lowered
Omega 3 benefits to heart are numerous. To enjoy the maximum omega-3 heart benefits, we must consume an omega 3 rich diet and at the same time reduce omega-6 from our diet to maintain a healthy balance.