A while back, I read a New York Times article about how most cardiologists fail to explain omega-3 benefits to their patients. The gist of the article was how in Europe fish oil is a heart health mainstay, but not in America. In fact, many U.S. doctors flat out ignore the many health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.1
I’ve been recommending omega-3s for nearly 20 years. It is one nutrient I regard as essential for heart health. In countless patients, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits of omega-3s for:
- Overall cardiovascular health and function
- Healthy blood pressure
- Circulation, blood flow, and blood viscosity
- Normal blood lipids
- Healthy triglyceride levels
And, for women, omega-3s are a must. One in four women in the United States dies from heart disease each year.2 Research shows that omega-3s are particularly beneficial for post-menopausal women—helping to slow coronary atherosclerosis in women with heart disease.
Plus, Omega-3s Can Treat (and Prevent) Heart Attacks
There’s an increasing amount of evidence showing that omega-3s can help to ward off a heart attack and help to repair damage once a heart attack occurs.
In a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that those with higher blood levels of omega-3s (both seafood and plant based) were about 10% less likely to die from a heart attack when compared to those with lower omega-3 blood levels.
Plus, research published in the journal Circulation found that those who took high-dose omega-3s daily for six months following a heart attack had better heart function and less muscle scarring than those who took a placebo.
How Do Omega-3s Help Your Heart?
Omega-3s support your heart in several important ways. These vital fats support healthy platelet function so your blood clots as it should. They also enhance the production of nitric oxide, the chemical that allows your blood vessels to relax—which is essential for healthy blood pressure.
Another important function of omega-3s is that they help to support a normal inflammatory response. In a study looking at blood levels of omega-3s and C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, those with the highest levels of omega-3s had the lowest levels of CRP.3
Are You Getting Enough Omega-3s for Your Heart?
Omega-3s are known as “essential” fatty acids (EFAs) because they are essential for life. Yet, your body doesn’t produce omega-3s. So, to reap the benefits of omega-3s you need to either get them from foods (such as wild salmon) or through omega-3 supplements.
Unfortunately, many cardiologists fail to explain the importance of omega-3s to their patients. And most Americans get just 100 to 300 mg of omega-3 essential fatty acids in their diets each day. But the research shows that for maximum support for your heart and overall health you need two to three times that amount.
For Heart Support, You Want to Take DHA Omega-3s
There are two types of omega-3s: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While your body needs both types of omega-3s, the newest research is showing that DHA omega-3s give you the best support for your blood pressure, arterial health, and circulation.
Your body also needs DHA omega-3s for mental processing and vision support. In fact, DHA omega-3s make up 97% of the omega-3 fatty acids in your brain, and 93% of the omega-3s in your eyes.
What is the Best Source of Omega-3s?
Good food sources of DHA include wild salmon, sardines, and DHA-fortified eggs. DHA omega-3s are also found in fish, algae, and calamari oil supplements. But with any form of omega-3s you take, you want to make sure it’s heavily weighted in DHA over EPA. That way, you get the maximum benefits of DHA for your heart, brain, and eye health.
What is the best omega-3 dosage? For heart support I recommend taking 1 to 3 grams of omega-3s daily. You want to strive to get that amount through a combination of DHA-rich foods and supplements.
- Rosenthal, E. In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S., The New York Times, 2006.
- How Does Heart Disease Affect Women?", National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2014.
- Micallef MA et al. Eur J Clin Nutri 2009; 63:1154-6.