Recommendation adds to mainstream medical acceptance of cardiac benefits from omega-3s in fish and fish oil
by Craig Weatherby
There’s a great deal of evidence that fish and fish oil can help reduce the risk of a second heart attack, in addition to reducing the risk of sudden cardiac deaths caused by arrhythmias.
And the folks who run Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) have decided to take advantage of this knowledge to help heart attack victims and reduce health care costs.
The new guidelines advise victims of heart attacks to consume ample amounts of fatty fish like salmon, and recommend fish oil supplements for patients who are not getting enough fish in their diet.
The UK authorities estimate that fish and fish oil could help prevent a second attack in many of the 270,000 Brits who survive a heart attack annually.
Patients will also be advised to follow a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, olive oil and fish, and to stop smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day.
The guidance comes from the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which, like America’s Institute of Medicine, is an independent organization responsible for providing national guidance on the prevention and treatment of disease.
According to the guidance, all heart attack victims should be advised to consume at least 7,000 mg of omega-3s per week, by eating two to four three-ounce portions of oily fish.
Sockeye and Silver salmon average 1,250 mg of omega-3s per 3.5 ounce serving, so patients would meet the UK goal with five to six servings per week. King salmon is richer in omega-3s, and three servings would suffice. To see the omega-3 content of other wild fish, see our nutrition chart.
And the report says that patients who’ve had a heart attack within the past three months and are not getting 7,000 mg of omega-3s per week from fish should take 1,000 mg of omega-3s for up to four years: the same dose recommended to heart patients by the American Heart Association.
NOTE: People who have implanted cardiac defibrillators or who have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure may be at higher risk of arrhythmias or arrhythmia-induced sudden cardiac death if they consume more than minimal amounts of omega-3s from fish, and must consult a cardiologist for specific omega-3 intake advice.
Based on the NICE guidance, Britain’s National Health Service determined that it would be much healthier and more cost effective to recommend fish oil supplements to patients, rather than some widely prescribed drugs, and will pay all of part of the cost.
A major study from Japan published last month in The Lancet confirmed the advantages of omega-3s to people before they have even had a heart attack.
Although Britain’s cardiac death rate has been falling since the early 1970s, it remains one of the highest in Europe, with more than 103,000 deaths a year.
Omega-3s are known to reduce blood fat levels, reduce the chances of a blood clot, improve artery function, and block abnormal heart rhythms that can prove fatal.
- National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. CG48 MI: secondary prevention - NICE Guideline. Accessed online May 26, 2007 at http://guidance.nice.org.uk/CG48/niceguidance/pdf/English/download.dspx