While many people may think that life post-heart attack means facing a series of health challenges and related difficulties, a new study from the American College of Cardiology (ACC) has found that that isn’t necessarily true.(1)
Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, according to their findings, helps maintain heart health after an attack.
The heart-protecting benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were recently presented at the ACC’s 64th Annual Scientific Session in San Diego. There, the ability that these fatty acids have to lower inflammation levels and fight additional heart function problems down the road were discussed, as was the fact that, according to senior author Raymond W. Kwong, M.D., M.P.H, consumption of such fatty acids helps the heart “above and beyond the standard of care.”(1)
Implications of omega-3 fatty acids “fairly large” when it comes to heart health post-heart attack
Kwong, who is also the director of cardiac magnetic resonance imaging at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says that the findings made in this study are very impressive for those who have had heart attacks. “The implications of this study could be fairly large,” he said. In a press release announcing the study, the ACC noted that about 720,000 Americans have heart attacks each year, which often leave their heart condition compromised.(1)
In the study, which involved assessing 374 patients who were recovering from a heart attack and receiving standard treatment, people were asked to take 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily (the equivalent of eating 8 ounces of salmon) or a placebo. Blood work was analyzed at various times, ending with a six-month span since the heart attack first occurred. Finally, their hearts were monitored with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging. The results made it clear that those taking the omega-3 fatty acids were more likely to experience improved heart health after their heart attack.(1)
For example, compared to those taking a placebo, patients taking the omega-3 fatty acids were 39 percent less likely have heart function deterioration. Furthermore, the reduction of ST2, a marker of systemic inflammation, was observed as being improved among those taking the healthy acids. The marker is an indication of proper heart and tissue functioning.(1)
“Omega-3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory effects and also promote better cardiac healing,” said Kwong. “This is important because other anti-inflammatory agents, including steroids and NSAIDS, have failed to make a difference after myocardial infarction.” It’s also noted that this particular study differs from previous ones that have attempted to point out the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and heart health in that it’s the first to use quantitative cardiac imaging to determine the role between these acids and heart protection post-heart attack.(1)
Turn to omega-3 fatty acids, not NSAIDs, to protect heart
NSAIDs (pain relievers such as aspirin and ibuprofen), have long-been rooted in controversy. While many medical professionals tout the benefits they have for heart attack survivors especially, they’ve also been found to come with devastating health consequences.
Dr. Gunnar H. Gislason, senior resident at Gentofte University Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark, actually warns against the use of NSAIDS, saying that they pose a health risk. “The evidence is accumulating, and it seems that patients who have already had a heart attack are at even more risk than we thought before,” he said.(2)
Additionally, information reported in the journal Circulation found that there was a link between NSAID use and a a high risk for a second heart attack.(2)
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods website, these foods not only help reduce the risk of heart disease but play a role in boosting brain function and decreasing the risk of inflammation-related diseases.(3)
Jennifer Lea Reynolds
Sources for this article include: