Your heart may weigh less than a pound, but this powerful organ is vital to your survival, so it makes sense to do all you can to take care of it. If you already eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke and take up regular exercise, you may be wondering if there’s anything else you can do to keep your heart in shape.
When it comes to heart health, this is one fat you really don’t want to cut back on, and here’s why…
Omega 3 can reduce the fat in your blood
While triglycerides don’t get as much bad press as cholesterol, having high levels of this type of fat in your bloodstream is thought to be just as deadly for your heart. A lipid produced by the body in response to the food we eat, triglycerides are known to contribute to the thickening of arteries, which in turn increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.
But the Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (found only in oily fish and fish oil supplements and not in plant-based sources of Omega 3) have been proven to reduce triglyceride levels. In fact, they’re considered so effective that Omega 3 capsules are available on prescription to those with high triglyceride levels living in the US.
Omega 3 can prevent irregular heartbeat
Thought to affect about 2 million people in the UK, an Irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, is a leading cause of both sudden heart attack and stroke.
Although you should consult your doctor before taking any supplements if you suffer from an irregular heartbeat already, studies have shown that in healthy people, taking Omega 3 fish oil lessened the risk of developing arrhythmia.
A Harvard study of older adults found that those with the highest blood levels of Omega-3 fatty acids were 30 percent less likely to later develop an irregular heartbeat, compared to those with the lowest levels.
Omega 3 can slow the build-up of plaque in your arteries
Plaque’s not just bad for your teeth. it can also build up in your arteries and narrow them, restricting the blood flow to your heart and forcing it to work harder. Also known as atherosclerosis, this kind of plaque build-up is actually made up of debris like calcium, cholesterol and white blood cells debris and, left unchecked, it can lead to heart disease.
But studies have shown that the Omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA found in oily fish and fish oil supplements can help keep arteries clear. Researchers at Southampton University studied patients who were scheduled for an operation to have plaque removed from the arteries. They found that patients who were given high doses of Omega 3 before their surgery had far fewer inflammatory cells in their plaque. This led them to conclude that consuming Omega 3 at a lower dosage over a longer period of time could have artery-clearing benefits in healthy people, too.
Omega 3 can lower your blood pressure
According to the British Heart Foundation, having untreated high blood pressure – or hypertension –can leave your heart enlarged and less able to pump effectively, all factors that have been implicated in heart failure.
But Omega 3 has been found to offer significant benefits to those with high blood pressure – and can prevent it developing in people that don’t. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that the EPA and DHA found in Omega 3 fish oil actually reduced blood pressure as much as lifestyle changes such as exercising, lowering salt intake or cutting back on alcohol.
Omega 3 can prevent sticky blood
A poor diet, being overweight or smoking can all cause blood to get thick and ‘sticky’ over time, putting you at higher risk of blood clots and forcing your heart to work harder to pump the blood around your body. Sticky blood can even damage the lining of blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack further.
While stopping smoking and improving your diet are great first steps, Omega 3 fish oils are known to decrease blood platelet activity, by slowing blood clotting and thinning blood.
Omega 3 can reduce inflammation in your body
When you’ve suffered a cut or come down with a sore throat, the redness and warmth of inflammation are all good signs that your immune system is working, sending out white blood cells and nutrients to the parts of your body that need them most.
But factors such as smoking, a poor diet and stress can cause chronic inflammation, meaning you’re at increased risk of fatty plaques inside your arteries – significantly raising your risk of blood clots and heart disease.
The link between higher Omega 3 intake and reduced inflammation is so well known that it’s been a staple when it comes to treating conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. But these same anti-inflammatory effects can have huge benefits on inflammation anywhere in the body - including the heart and arteries.