Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Recovery After Heart Attack?

omega-3Scientists have long been studying the effects of natural food supplements to determine how well they can help people, particularly those living with certain conditions. It turns out that Omega-3 fatty acids might actually benefit those who have already had a heart attack.

In a new study, 360 heart attack patients were observed for six months. Half were given 4 gms of omega-3 fatty acid supplements a day while the other half took a placebo. Using MRIs of the heart, the researchers found that those who took the 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acid supplements showed at least a 6 percent improvement in both heart function as well as an improvement in scarring of the undamaged parts of the heart.

While the study has definitive results, they are slight and, more importantly, the researchers remain uncertain as to how and why these supplements seem to aid in recovery after heart attack. For example, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (Boston) director of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, Dr. Raymond Kwong, notes that it is already somewhat common for doctors to prescribe up to 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acid supplements per day for a patient with higher than normal triglyceride levels.

As such, Kwong goes on to say, “What we need to study going forward is whether higher doses of omega-3 can reduce mortality rates. Can we do better than produce 6 percent heart improvement and 6 percent less scarring?”

At the same time, University of California, Los Angeles professor of cardiology, Dr. Gregg Fonarow advises that existing studies which gave lower doses of omega-3 fatty acids after heart attacks had only yielded “mixed results.” More specificlly, he notes, “The value of the study suggests that fish oil supplementation at the 4-gram daily dose may help with the heart healing process after a heart attack, and suggests that further studies are warranted.”

For now, then, the study can at least suggest that higher dosages of omega-3 fatty acids can, indeed, help improve recovery after a heart attack. Kwong says that is, at the very least, provocative enough to continue the research. For example, they could look more specifically at whether higher doses of the supplement could even lower risk of death following a heart attack.

“Our study was not about mortality,” he says. “It was about looking at fish oil and the heart using improved MRI technology. This opens opportunities for more studies.”


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