Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington, publishing the results of a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine have found that older adults who have higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fatty fish and seafood, may be able to lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27 percent and their risk of dying from heart disease by about 35 percent. Older individuals with the highest levels of omega-3 fats in their blood lived an average of 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.
Eating Fatty Fish or Fish Oil Supplements Dramatically Lowers Risk from a Fatal Heart Attack
The study is regarded as the first to assess how serum blood levels of DHA and EPA omega-3 fats relate to total mortality and specific causes of mortality in a general population. Study author, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian commented “Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and total deaths in older adults… our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life.”
To conduct their study, researchers examined sixteen years of data from about 2,700 U.S. adults, aged 65 or older, who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study. All participants were healthy at the start of the study, and during follow up each had blood drawn, underwent physical exams and diagnostic testing, and were questioned about their health status, medical history, and lifestyle. Blood samples were tested for all omega-3 components (DHA, EPA and DPA) at the study outset and during follow up.
Eat Fatty Fish Three Times a Week or Supplement Daily to Slash Hear Disease Risk Factors
After adjusting for demographic, cardiovascular, lifestyle, and dietary factors, the scientists found that all three fatty acids combined were associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality (27 percent). When broken down by type, the researchers found that high DHA blood levels were associated with a 40 percent reduction in death from coronary heart disease. EPA and DPA were most strongly linked with lowered risk for stroke death and EPA significantly reduced non-fatal heart attack risk.
The team determined that the largest benefit was increasing omega-3 fat intake from a very low level to 400 mg per day. Dr. Mozaffarian concluded “The findings suggest that the biggest bang-for-your-buck is for going from no intake to modest intake, or about two servings of fatty fish per week.” Past research studies have determined that all individuals with no risk factors for heart disease should consume fatty fish three times per week or supplement with 1,200 mg fish oil daily. Those with multiple risk factors should increase intake to 2,400 mg combined EPA/DHA daily to minimize heart disease risk and extend lifespan.