Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Health

Omega-3 fatty acids have been involved in a large number of clinical studies to investigate how their anti-inflammatory and anti-clotting effects may benefit cardiovascular health. These benefits include:

  • Raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the 'good' cholesterol)
  • Reduce the levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the 'bad' cholesterol) and the triglyceride level
  • Increases the particle size of the LDL in the blood
  • Help to prevent blood clots by acting as an anticoagulant
  • Help to prevent cardiac arrhythmias
  • Reduce risk of heart attack - studies suggest the risk could be lowered by approximately 33%
  • Reduce the risk of a second heart attack
  • Regulate and lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death - one study showed a lower risk of 45%
  • Reduce inflammation - a known cause of heart disease
  • May help to slow the progression of atherosclerosis - hardening or thickening of the arteries
  • Help clear arteries that may be clogged
  • May help to lower the incidence of irregular heartbeats
  • Reduce excessive levels of homocysteine (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease)
  • May help reduce chest pain or angina
  • Help to protect against strokes
  • May offer protection against COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

For example, recent studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help to prevent stroke by preventing blood clots and plaque accumulation, and may even be as effective as daily aspirin therapy at reducing the risk of thrombotic stroke - but without the side effects of aspirin therapy. One study showed that women who ate oily fish had the following reduced risk of stroke:

  • 1-3 times per month: 7% reduced risk (compared to those who ate fish less than once a month)
  • 4 times per month (i.e. once a week): 22% reduced risk
  • 8-16 times per month (i.e. 2-4 times a week): 27% reduced risk
  • 20 times or more per month (i.e. 5 or more times a week): 52% reduced risk