While heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s also a condition which can be very preventable. It’s generally accepted that people at risk for heart disease can proactively reduce their risk by making simple lifestyle changes.
If you limit alcohol consumption, stop smoking and add 30 minutes of exercise to your daily routine, this can lower your risk for heart disease. Monitoring and managing other health risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and blood cholesterol levels can also help reduce your risk.
Of course, one of the most important recommended lifestyle changes involves making dietary changes. Dietary recommendations for people at risk for heart disease include consuming fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and other low-fat sources of protein, and dairy products which are low in fat.
It’s also generally recommended that those seeking a heart-healthy diet select foods that are low in salt, fat, and cholesterol. Of course, any heart-healthy diet would be incomplete without omega-3 fatty acids.
Found in foods such as fish, as well as canola, walnut, flax, and soybean oils, omega-3 fatty acids are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood cholesterol levels, reducing high blood pressure, and lowering the risk of heart arrhythmias.
Currently, the American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, or mackerel each week. Fatty fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to consuming fish twice a week, many interested in a healthy heart may add omega-3 supplements to their diet to help further prevent heart disease.
However, according to the results of a new study led by Evangelos Rizos, M.D., PhD, of the University Hospital of Ioannina, Greece, Omega-3 consumption may not be as beneficial in lowering the risk of heart disease as previously believed.
As a part of the study, researchers examined the results gathered from more than 20 studies involving almost 70,000 patients and including 3,635 citations.
Researchers specifically examined omega-3 consumption and its relationship to the outcome of cardiac events. Patient data examined included reported strokes and heart attacks, overall deaths, along with reported deaths from sudden death and cardiac-related death.
After examining all the data, researchers found no differences in the rates of death or heart attack, and stroke between those who consumed omega-3 supplements and those who didn’t.
The findings are a contradiction to the generally accepted recommendations regarding omega-3 consumption. In addition to recommendations for daily consumption of omega-3 from groups such as the American Heart Association, omega-3 is also recommended by other entities for use after heart attacks, to lower triglycerides, and to reduce and modify risk factors for cardiac-related events.
Complete study findings were published in the September 12, 2012 issue of JAMA.
5 medication-free strategies to help prevent heart disease. The Mayo Clinic. 12 Jan 2011.
Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. American Heart Association. 07 Sept. 2010.
American Medical Association (AMA) (2012, September 11). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation not associated with lower risk of major cardiovascular disease events. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 23, 2012, from
1. Rizos EC, Ntzani EE, Bika E, Kostapanos MS, Elisaf MS. Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA, 2012; 308 (10): 1024-1033 DOI: 10.1001/2012.jama.11374
Reviewed September 24, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith