Heart attack happens when a blockage in a person’s coronary artery causes part of their heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen. It requires immediate medical attention. The good news is, making small changes to one’s lifestyle can reduce the risk of having a heart attack in the first place. In addition to eating heart-healthy foods and keeping active, a new study supports taking omega 3 supplements.
This meta-analysis provides the most up-to-date evidence
Yang Hu, first author
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that people who received omega-3 fish oil supplements in randomised clinical trials had lower risks of heart attack and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) events compared with those who were given placebo.
Researchers found an association between daily omega-3 supplementation and reduced risk of most CVD outcomes, including heart attack, death from coronary heart disease, and death from CVD, but did not see benefit for stroke.
In addition, higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplements was associated with an even greater risk reduction.
“This meta-analysis provides the most up-to-date evidence regarding the effects of omega-3 supplementation on risk of multiple CVD outcomes. We found significant protective effects of daily omega-3 supplementation against most CVD outcome risks and the associations appeared to be in a dose-response manner,” said first author Yang Hu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School.
The findings support a growing body of evidence that has linked omega 3 supplementation to heart health. Research has been inconsistent, however.
A large-scale analysis published last year found omega 3 supplementation had “little or no effect” on heart disease risk.
In this new analysis, the researchers did an updated meta-analysis that included three recently completed large-scale trials, which increased the sample size by 64 per cent.
The total population analysed by Hu and colleagues included more than 120,000 adults in 13 randomised trials worldwide.
The analysis included the VITAL trial, the largest randomised trial of omega-3s to date.
The findings showed that people who took daily omega-3 fish oil supplements, compared with those who took a placebo, lowered their risk for most CVD outcomes except stroke, including an eight per cent reduced risk for heart attack and coronary heart disease (CHD) death.
Significantly, the association was stronger at higher doses of omega-3 fish oil supplementation.
“Although public health recommendations should focus on increasing fish consumption, having an overall heart-healthy diet, being physically active, and having other healthy lifestyle practices, this study suggests that omega-3 supplementation may have a role in appropriate patients,” said senior author JoAnn Manson, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
What is a heart-healthy diet?
According to the British Heart Foundation, a heart-healthy diet includes:
- Plenty of fruit and vegetables
- Plenty of starchy foods such as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Choose wholegrain varieties wherever possible
- Some milk and dairy products
- Some meat, fish, eggs, beans and other non-dairy sources of protein
- Only a small amount of foods and drinks high in fats and/or sugar
“Choose options that are lower in fat, salt and sugar whenever you can,” added the health body.
Keeping active can also reduce the risk, as the NHS explained: “Being active and taking regular exercise will lower your blood pressure by keeping your heart and blood vessels in good condition.
“Regular exercise can also help you lose weight, which will help lower your blood pressure.”
What are the symptoms of a heart attack?
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of a person’s chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from the chest to the arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing
Find out more about the symptoms here.
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