(Note: This week, Dr. Juan will be focusing on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, especially for your heart. Here’s part three of his three-part series)
When you’ve had a heart attack, your cardiac situation is different. You need to focus hard on your diet to keep yourself healthy. Fish oil, a food cure for your heart, is a good place to begin. Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, any doctor’s advice would be to start eating fish multiple times a week and consider supplements. Fish oil carries great benefits for people whose history includes a heart attack.
The first major trial regarding the role of fish oil in patients with previous heart attacks involved 2,033 men, who were assigned to accept or not to accept advice on each of three dietary factors: (1) a reduction in fat intake and an increase in the ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat (according to the American Heart Association); (2) an increase in fatty fish intake (e.g. eat fatty fish two to three times per week or take fish oil capsules with 450 mg omega-3 fatty acids per day); (3) an increase in cereal fiber intake (18 grams).
The health advice on reducing fat intake was not associated with any difference in death rates, since it led to only a three to four percent reduction in cholesterol levels. People who were advised to eat more fatty fish (approximately 500 to 800 mg a day of omega 3 fatty acids) had a 29% reduction in all-cause death rates, as compared with those not accepting this advice. Those who chose to take fish oil capsules (450 mg EPA and DHA per day) instead of eating fatty fish experienced a 62% reduction in heart-related deaths and a 56% reduction in the overall risk of death.
Another study studied the effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids, alone or in combination with vitamin E, versus vitamin E alone or placebo for those who’d had heart attacks. For five years, 11,323 patients who had suffered a heart attack within the previous three months received: (1) 1,000 mg/day of omega-3 fatty acids; (2) 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids and 300 mg of vitamin E per day; or (3) 300 mg/day of vitamin E; (4) or placebo.
Patients were predominantly male (85%). The mean age was 59.4 years, with 16% aged 70 years or over. All patients were advised to eat a Mediterranean diet. At baseline, ACE inhibitors, antiplatelet agents, beta-blockers, and lipid-lowering drugs were taken by 46.9%, 91.7%, 44.3%, and 4.7% of patients, respectively. They remained on these same drugs throughout the entire study.
— Those individuals who took the fish oil capsules, but not vitamin E, had a reduction in the risk of death, myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke by 15%, a significant lowering of the risk of cardiovascular-event-related death by 30%, and a reduction in the risk of sudden death by 45%.
— The effect of fish oil in reducing the risk of sudden death was observed after four months of treatment.
— The effect of fish oil in reducing cardiovascular, cardiac, and coronary deaths was seen after six to eight months of treatment.
— Taking one gram of fish oil containing 850 mg of omega 3 daily could save five to seven out of 1,000 patients with previous MI per year. These results are comparable to lowering serum cholesterol levels with a commonly prescribed drug for one year.
But know that not every clinical trial shows this beneficial effect of fish oil. But introducing more into your diet is never a bad idea.