Omega-3s May Help People Recovering From Heart Attacks, Study Suggests

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Woman cutting into a salmon filet

Diet is an important factor—actually the most important factor in preventing heart disease. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, adding omega-3 fatty acids to the diet can be especially heart-healthy. 

The research found a combination of foods rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) omega-3s and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) omega-3s lowered the risk of death for up to three years in heart attack patients. 

What did the research find?

The study looked at 944 adults who were 61 years old on average. While in the hospital, each participant had their blood drawn to determine their baseline omega-3 blood levels. Then, researchers looked at whether or not people who had more omega-3s at the time of their heart attack would be more protected three years later, compared to those with low levels. Turns out, they were. 

People with higher ALA omega-3s lowered their risk of death, overall, while those with higher EPA levels lowered heart-related death risks. Research has shown that second heart attacks (within the first five years of the first) are fatal in 36% of men and 47% of women—making this potential preventive factor promising.

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How to get more omega-3s in the diet. 

Foods containing EPAs include fatty fish, like tuna, salmon, oysters, mackerel, anchovies, herring, and sardines, to name a few. Plant-based foods containing ALAs include walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and sea veggies

"What is novel about this research is that it shows that ALA and EPA appear to be partners in improving the long-term outcomes of heart attack sufferers," lead study author Aleix Sala-Vila, Ph.D., said in a news release. "Consuming both marine and plant-based omega-3s, from foods like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed, seems to offer the greatest protection."

Bottom line.

Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is good for overall health but may be particularly beneficial for people with a history of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. While the cause and effect is not well understood and more research is necessary to prove the association, the findings are still promising.

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