Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women. There are many risk factors that can contribute to developing heart disease. Some risk factors cannot be modified like age and family history. But others such as smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, eating fruits and vegetables, and high blood pressure are all modifiable by making healthier lifestyle choices.
Research presented at the 2016 American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions showed a positive correlation between circulating omega-3 fatty acids and a major risk factor for heart disease. In this study, 2036 young healthy adults volunteered. Researchers measured blood pressure and blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Individuals were then divided into four groups, from those with the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood to those with the lowest levels. The results showed that healthy young adults who had the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures than healthy young adults with the lowest levels.
These important healthy fats are found mostly in fish and some plant sources. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are largely found in fish, especially cold water fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines (sometimes called “marine omega-3’s”). Vegetarian sources include some vegetable oils, walnuts, and flax seeds. However, the primary omega-3 fatty acid found in plant sources is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA is limited in humans and generally used for energy.
This is not the first study to associate higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease but adds further evidence that promoting diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help support heart health.
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