ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA. For some, sudden death is the first indication of the presence of coronary heart disease and even when the existence of this disease is recognized, sudden death is not an uncommon event. Currently, prevention of sudden death focuses on three interventions: implantable defibrillators, automated external defibrillators placed in public places and the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. This study compares the defibrillator approach with an intervention aimed at increasing blood levels of these fatty acids. The justification in part was based on a meta-analysis that found that omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil (EPA and DHA) reduced all-cause mortality and various outcomes from cardiovascular disease such as sudden death, death from cardiac disease, and nonfatal myocardial infarction (heart attack).
The study found that raising omega-3 levels would have about 8 times the impact of distributing external defibrillators and twice the impact of implanting such devices. Furthermore, the authors point out that there would also be benefits from raising omega-3 levels in individuals who do not qualify for or had not been identified as candidates for implantable devices. This study, which was based on data from the literature, used omega-3 parameters taken from two studies, one of which found a 62% decrease in risk of cardiac arrest for healthy individuals taking omega-3 supplements, and one which found a 45% decrease in risk of cardiac arrest attributable to omega-3 supplements for patients with a prior heart attack. This latter study used 840 mg/day of easily absorbable EPA + DHA.
Kottke,T.E. et al. Preventing Sudden death with n-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids and Defibrillators. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2006, Vol. 31, No. 4, pp. 316-23