Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce mortality risk in heart attack patients

·4 min read

The fact that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health is very well known. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids found in foods that we eat: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Of these, ALA is found in plant sources like soy, nuts and seeds while EPA and DHA are available mostly in fatty fish and other seafood.

Since your body cannot naturally make much of these essential fatty acids, getting them from food sources is necessary. An increased intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is associated with improved heart health, cognitive function, eye and skin health as well as cancer prevention.

A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that regular consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and ALA, can lower the risk of negative clinical outcomes and mortality in people who have suffered a myocardial infarction or heart attack.

Omega-3 for heart attack patients

Coronary artery disease (CAD) and especially heart attacks are some of the leading causes of mortality across the world. Advances in prompt medical care and techniques have reduced mortality due to heart attacks but the need for post-heart attack care and lifestyle changes to prevent further complications or second heart attacks need more attention. The researchers behind this study hypothesized that since those who consume more omega-3 rich foods have better cardiovascular outcomes, the regular consumption of such foods by heart attack patients may also have immense benefits.

To establish this hypothesis, the researchers conducted an observational study with 944 patients who experienced an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). STEMI is a very serious type of heart attack in which the major arteries of the heart are blocked. So severe is this type of heart attack that it's also known as the "widow-maker heart attack".

The participants were observed between 2011 and 2016, with their baseline data being collected at the time of their hospitalization due to the heart attack. Blood samples were taken at the time of admission and 12 hours after the onset of the heart attack. Of the 944 patients, 209 were women and the average age of all the participants was 61 years at the time of admission.

The researchers analysed the levels of omega-3 present in the blood samples to establish how much of this essential fatty acid these patients had been taking in the weeks prior to the heart attack. They then set out to determine if those who had higher levels of omega-3 in their blood also had a reduced risk of suffering post-heart attack complications during a three-year follow-up period.

Both EPA and ALA are equally needed

The scientists found that those who had elevated levels of serum EPA in their blood at the time of the STEMI had significantly lower risks of major adverse coronary events or MACE during the follow-up period. This means that these patients did not have to face acute coronary syndrome, a second heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular death during the follow-up period. They also had fewer rehospitalizations due to complications, thus proving that continuing to consume omega-3 rich foods improves your post-heart attack survival rate and associated health markers.

The study further pointed out that apart from EPA levels, high ALA levels also contributed positively towards the health of heart attack patients. This means that apart from consuming fatty fish, fish oils and seafood rich in EPA, people who've suffered a heart attack - or even those at risk of heart diseases - should also consume plant-based omega-3 foods rich in ALA. ALA is found in large concentrations in walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, soybeans, canola oil and many other types of nuts and seeds and the oils derived from them.

For more information, read our article on Heart attack.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by, India's first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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