According to the statistics, every year 785,000 citizens of the USA have their first heart attack. There are 470,000 Americans with a history of at least one heart attack. In the USA, heart diseases are the reasons of death in about 25%. That is why reduction of heart attacks risks is such an important issue. Omega-3 fatty acids seem to occupy a significant place in solving this problem. Are these acids really effective and is it really that important to consume them?
Why Do Heart Attacks Occur?
The heart muscle requires an unlimited access to blood rich in oxygen for normal functioning. Coronary arteries are responsible for delivering the blood to the heart. If the arteries narrow too much, the blood flow cannot reach the heart. Coronary arteries may have the buildup of various substances, including calcium, proteins, fatty matters, cholesterol and inflammatory cells, which forms plaques. The outer shell of a plaque is hard and if it cracks (plaque rupture), it may lead to forming a blood clot around the plaque. A heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) happens when the heart does not get oxygen due blocking of the blood flow by blood clots. Unless an access to the blood flow is released soon, the section of heart muscle dies.
MI may also be the result of a spasm of a coronary artery or tear in the heart artery.
The main factors leading to MI include:
- High blood pressure;
- High cholesterol;
- Sedentary lifestyle;
- History of coronary diseases in the family.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Belonging to PUFAs, omega-3 fatty acids or n-3 fatty acids have two pairs of electrons shared by carbon atoms (double bond) that are located at the 2nd and 3rd place from the end of the hydrocarbon chain. There are three main n-3 fatty acids, including the following:
- Eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA;
- Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA;
- Alpha-Linolenic acid, or ALA.
The first two acids come mainly from fish (trout, salmon, herring, anchovies, sardines, and others), and the third one is found in vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, nuts, flaxseed oil, flax seeds and some animal fat.
ALA is needed for energy and for conversion into DHA and EPA, which is basically the only way the human body can get EPA and DHA if not with a special food.
Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids Are Crucial for Human Body?
These acids are crucial for functioning of cell receptors in the human body. N-3 fatty acids are needed for producing hormones that are important for regulating blood clotting and keeping the artery walls relaxed. Thanks to these effects, acids are considered effective in preventing heart disease and stroke, helping control rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, lupus, and they may bring benefits for protection against cancer and other conditions. Lack of acids may also affect the development of a fetus.
The human body is able to produce most types of fats from raw materials and other fats. Unfortunately, that is not so for omega-3 fatty acids. To maintain the high level of them in the blood, it is important to include special kinds of food containing these acids.
How Do Omega-3 Fatty Acids Prevent Heart Attacks?
N-3 fatty acids decrease blood pressure in those people who suffer from hypertension. According to some evidence, people who have problems with blood circulation (for instance, varicose veins) may improve their health thanks to the intake of DHA and EPA, which stimulates the process. The acids are also able to increase the breakdown of a protein that may be a part of blood clotting, as well as change the level of cholesterol in the blood. Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce blood triglyceride levels.
It was believed that EPA and DHA are more important for health than ALA, but the latest studies have found out that ALA blood levels also determine the risk of MI.
A special study has been conducted, involving 45,000 participants from 16 countries. According to the results obtained, a higher level of n-3 fatty acids in blood is associated with a nearly 10% lower risk of MI with a lower level of the acids. People with the highest level of n-3 fatty acids in their blood had a reduced risk of a heart attack by 25%. The percentage of deaths because of a heart attack may be significantly reduced if Americans include more foods with omega-3 fatty acids. The AHA recommends that people should eat various kinds of fish at least two times a week. It is also recommended to consume oils and foods, containing the acids.
People with a history of CHD are recommended to consume about 1 g of EPA and DHA from oily fish a day, or consider taking EPA+DHA medications under doctor’s supervision.
Does the Use of Omega-3 Medications Make Sense?
The best and safest way of getting n-3 fatty acids is from food. Omega-3 fatty acid medications may be used by people who need to increase n-3 fatty acids levels in their blood in other ways than from food.
Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids is a generic name for many brand medications, including Divista, Icar Prenatal Essential Omega-3, MaxEPA, Lovaza, MegaKrill, Ovega-3 Vegetarian, Prenatal DHA, TheraTears Nutrition, TherOmega and others.
It has been recently suggested that high doses of n-3 fatty acids may protect patients after having MI against further damage. During the research, patients with a history of MI were given 4 g of omega-3 fatty acids and placebo every day. Patients taking omega-3 showed lower levels of inflammation and risk of deterioration of heart function lowered by 39%. Other benefits were also noticed. However, researchers determined that in order to receive the dose of 4 g of omega-3 fatty acids a person should eat 8 ounces of salmon. So, a large dose of n-3 fatty acids will unlikely be reached by a diet. This makes the use of Omega-3 fatty acid medications really necessary.
As with any other drug, omega-3 fatty acid medications should be used wisely. The use of these meds should be discussed with a doctor, based on the presented risks of the first or another heart attack in a particular patient.
The article by Canadian Health&Care Mall Group specializing in healthy lifestyle: www.canadahealthcaremall.com. More articles about healthy lifestyle you can find in this section: