Since the 1970s, literally thousands of studies have shown that omega-3 fats may be the heart's best friend. They reduce the risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death, hardening of the arteries (Atherosclerosis), and stroke. They improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels, reduce high blood pressure, make arteries more elastic, reduce plaque formation, and make the heart muscle stronger.
Several of these studies yield the similar results to infer that men who consumed an average of 30 gm (about one oz.) Of fish daily had a 50 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease. Additionally, men who had at least one fish meal per week had a 52 percent lower risk of sudden death. Even eating one fish meal every two to three weeks was protective. Omega-3 fats protect the heart in several ways. The reason for heart attacks and strokes is the hardening of the arteries or Atherosclerosis, which is caused by plaque forming on the walls of the arteries. With time, more and more plaque material accumulates, which causes the artery to become very narrow and unable to provide enough blood flow to the heart or the brain.
Omega-3 fats also reduce the incidence of another arrhythmia called Atrial Fibrillation, especially in older people or after a bypass surgery. Patients with this condition have very rapid and irregular heart beats, as high as 250 per minute. Omega-3 fats make the heart muscle stronger and more efficient. As a result, the heart does not need to beat as fast, reducing the need for oxygen.
A number of studies show that omega-3 fats reduce blood pressure. This also reduces the work of the heart and reduces the need for oxygen. Omega-3 fats inhibit the production of prostaglandins that constrict blood vessels and make platelets stickier. They also reduce the production of fibrinogen, which is used to make blood clots, and increase a substance called plasminogen activator, which is needed to remove blood clots from arteries. As a result, omega-3 fats reduce blood clotting and make the arteries more open and more relaxed. Omega-3 fats promote the formation of nitric oxide and makes arteries more open by causing relaxation of arterial muscles. They reduce the "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and increase the level of "good" HDL cholesterol, especially when combined with anti-oxidant vitamin E. This reduces the risk of plaques forming inside the arteries. Omega-3 fatty acids are so good at supporting the heart and cardiovascular health that even people who already have heart disease can benefit. This even includes patients who hearts were harmed by a heart attack.
In a study, over 11,000 post-heart attack patients were followed for 3.5 years. Those who took as little as one gram of fish oil daily (one capsule) reduced the risk of dying from a heart attack by 30 percent and the risk of sudden death by 45 percent. The benefit of fish oil supplementation was evident after just four months of treatment.
Patients who have had bypass surgery or angioplasty, can also benefit from fish oil supplements. Diabetics, who have a higher risk of heart disease, can reduce their risk by taking two grams of fish oil or more daily. In short, the evidence is overwhelming that omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the health of your heart and cardiovascular system. Unfortunately, American doctors are greatly unaware of the fish oil benefits, so it is up to you to make sure that you are getting enough omega-3 fatty acids by either eating fish or taking fish oil supplements.