Increased fish intake combats heart disease

DALLAS, TEXAS. The American Heart Association (AHA) has just released its most recent guidelines for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by dietary and other lifestyle practices. The AHA clearly endorses the consumption of fish or fish oils as a means of preventing and treating heart disease. The guidelines point to the growing body of evidence indicating that foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), provide significant protection against heart disease. Among the benefits of EPA and DHA, the main components of fish oils, are:

  • Lower risk of arrhythmias
  • A reduction in the risk of sudden cardiac death
  • Lower plasma triglyceride levels
  • Reduced blood clotting tendency

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefit the Heart

The guidelines recommend that the current intake of omega-3 fatty acids be increased and specifically recommend at least 2 servings of fish per week. The AHA is even more enthusiastic about fish oils when it comes to protecting patients with existing heart disease against further deterioration or death. They refer to numerous studies which have found that supplementing with 850 mg to 2.9 grams/day of fish oil is highly beneficial for heart disease patients. A recent large-scale trial found that patients with coronary heart disease who supplemented with 850 mg/day of EPA plus DHA reduced their risk of sudden death by 45% and their overall risk of death by 20%. The AHA guidelines conclude that “Consumption of 1 fatty fish meal per day (or alternatively, a fish oil supplement) could result in an omega-3 fatty acid intake (i.e. EPA and DHA) of about 900 mg/day, an amount shown to beneficially affect coronary heart disease mortality rates in patients with coronary disease.”

Other major AHA guidelines for heart disease prevention are:

  • Eliminate smoking and moderate intake of sugar, salt, alcohol, trans-fatty acids, saturated fatty acids, and cholesterol
  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Match energy (food) intake to energy needs so as to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Exercise more and spend less time on watching television and other sedentary activities.

Krauss, Ronald M., et al. AHA Dietary Guidelines – Revision 2000: a statement for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. Circulation, Vol. 102, October 31, 2000, pp. 2284-99

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