Is There Something Fishy About Heart Disease?


In the never-ending quest to prevent heart attacks, many populations with low rates of heart disease have been studied.  What are the unique properties of these people that protect them from heart disease? One factor that seems to be protective is the regular consumption of fish, especially fish high in omega 3 fatty acids.

Omega 3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that can be found in plants (alpha linolenic acid) and fish (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA and docosahexaenoic acid or DHA).  The omega 3 fatty acids from fish are felt to be especially cardio protective. The oily (dark meat) fish that contain omega 3 fatty acids include halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, tuna, cod, char and mussels. Fish oil containing omega 3 fatty acids has several properties that may be beneficial for heart heath.  It lowers triglycerides and may lower blood pressure while improving the health of arteries.  Omega 3 fatty acids stabilize heart membranes and reduce the risk of heart arrhythmias. Fish oil may also be a blood thinner and it may have anti-inflammatory effects as well.  Do the benefits of fish oil translate into a lower risk for heart disease?

In studies of populations who consume large amounts of fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, it was found that there was a very low risk for death from heart artery disease.  For example, one of those populations, the Eskimos in Alaska, eat on average about 20 times the amount of omega 3 fatty acids as compared to people in the continental United States. In studies of patients without previous heart artery disease, those with higher intake of omega 3 fatty acids had a lower risk of dying from a heart attack. The death rate is 15% lower for weekly consumption of fish and 23% lower if fish is eaten two to four times per week. In patients with a prior heart attack, fish consumption was also associated with lower rates of cardiac death.  The effect of fish oil seems to be in the reduction of sudden cardiac (arrhythmia related) deaths rather than nonfatal heart attacks (where there is no real benefit). Fish oil may not stabilize heart artery plaque (which would lower the overall rate of heart attacks). Because of these studies, the American Heart Association recommends that patients who have heart artery disease eat oily fish two times per week.  In addition, the heart healthy Mediterranean Diet advocates for two or more servings of fish per week.

Sign Up for E-News

If consuming fish is good for the heart, is the same true for fish oil supplements containing omega 3 fatty acids?  Fish oil supplements also lower triglycerides and LDL cholesterol but it is more controversial whether they reduce the risk for heart disease.  In general, these supplements are safe although they can increase the risk for bleeding. Early studies showed a benefit for fish oil supplements but more recent data don’t show the same benefit.  A recent study of 77,000 patients given supplements with omega 3 fatty acids for 4 years showed no reduction in heart attacks, stroke, cancer or death. There may be several reasons for the difference. More recent studies include higher consumption of fish; people have gotten the message and have increased their fish intake on their own.  Adding fish oil supplements to a diet that includes fatty fish wouldn’t reduce risk further. In addition, more recent studies include patients receiving maximal therapy for heart disease.  Adding fish oil supplements won’t reduce risk further. The American Heart Association reviewed all of the available data on fish oil supplements and recommended the following. For patients without heart disease there is not enough data to recommend fish oil supplements. For patients with heart artery disease, already on optimal medical treatment, the role of supplements is not settled. Given the fact that fish oil supplements are relatively safe, their addition may be reasonable.

The best way to prevent heart artery disease is to exercise regularly and follow a prudent diet, including a good amount of fish. Fish oil (omega 3) supplements can be used for patients with established heart artery disease, but only after other medications, especially statins, are maximized and with the realization that the benefit of the supplement may only be minor.

Bridgewater resident Steve Georgeson is a cardiologist who works for Medicor Cardiology. Here, he writes about topics and events pertaining to cardiology

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events

Wed, July 18, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Wed, July 18, 9:00 AM

The Center for Contemporary Art, Bedminster,

2018 Members’ Non-Juried Exhibition & Sale

Arts & Entertainment

Thu, July 19, 9:00 AM

The Wayrick Gallery, Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, Bernardsville

NJ Audubon: NJ Audubon Photography Instructors’ ...

Arts & Entertainment Green

Somerville Woman Arrested for Shoplifting from Macy's, According to Bridgewater Police Report

July 14, 2018

BRIDGEWATER, NJ - A Somerville woman was arrested for allegedly shoplifting more than $400 worth of merchandise from Macy's at the Bridgewater Commons Mall July 7, according to a report from Bridgewater Township Police.

Sara Morales-Silva, 51, was charged with shoplifting after she was found with about $435.04 worth of merchandise from the store.

She was processed and released pending a ...

Creating a Dynamite Job Portfolio

July 18, 2018

The job market continues to change, as does the way we look for work. This Workshop examines the value of presenting yourself as a complete package by using a resume as an introduction to an employer and backing it up with a portfolio presented at the interview.

How You Will Benefit:

Learn how to brand yourself and define yourself using descriptive language.
Explore the essential ...

Somerville: Gallery Hosts Photo Society's 90th Anniversary Exhibit

July 15, 2018

SOMERVILLE, NJ – Arts on Division is presenting “Visions of Raritan Photographic Society – A Celebration of 90 years” from Thursday, July 19 to Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 at the Gallery on Division, 15B Division Street.

The Raritan Photographic Society, founded in 1929, is the oldest photography club in New Jersey. The exhibit celebrates the organization's 90 years ...

'Servant of Two Masters' exudes foolish fun

‘Servant of Two Masters’ makes for foolish, frivolous fun

By Liz Keill

MADISON, NJ –Carlo Goldoni’s “The Servant of Two Masters,” in a rousing translation and adaptation by Bonnie J. Monte, has the outdoor audience at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey laughing and clapping all the way through.

The yearly production, held at the amphitheatre on the ...

Take Action to Reduce Debt

In our last article, we broached the subject of debt and the township’s reliance – or over-reliance – on debt to fund our yearly expenditures for items such as roads. So, ok, we want to reduce our reliance on debt moving forward, especially as the cost of borrowing is rising. What’s the solution?

Well, there’s no magic wand we can wave to suddenly end ...

Is the Mediterranean Diet Still the Best for Heart Healthy Eating?

The Mediterranean diet has long been the standard for heart healthy eating.  It is a diet that emphasizes olive oil, fresh vegetables, nuts, whole grains over refined grains, fish and plant-based protein over red meat, herbs and spices to flavor food over salt, and fresh fruit for dessert instead of refined sweets. The US News and World Report even named the Mediterranean diet its ...

Celebrate Summer with Freedom & Responsibility

Parents and students rejoice!

School is out and everyone can now experience a great sense of freedom. Kids want to be outside enjoying summer weather and; although it’s the most wonderful season for non-academic activities involving swimming, traveling, and hiking to name a few, let us not forget that summer loss is a serious long-term result of not opening a book or writing for eight ...

Unique Skill Set Offers Students an Advantage

One of our SAT prep students recently gained a lot of attention for being accepted to all seven of the Ivy League schools to which she had applied, as well as to Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) She has chosen to attend M.I.T. and major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Of course, Diana had earned stellar SAT scores and had a most impressive ...

Geoffrey the Giraffe Moves In To New Brunswick Children's Hospital

July 12, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Over a stretch of nearly 70 years, Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us stores was the symbol of happy times for generations of children, and now he may provide those same feelings for children coming to a hospital.

"From this day forward, Geoffrey stands tall in our lobby to encourage our smallest patients to smile when they enter our facilities," said John ...