Coronary heart disease is the most common form of heart disease in the United States. It occurs when plaque builds up inside the walls of the coronary arteries, which supply blood to the heart. Because plaque buildup reduces blood flow to the brain, many researchers consider coronary heart disease as a risk factor for dementia.
Therefore, it is important for heart disease patients to pay just as much attention to their brains as they do to their hearts. Fortunately, a study shows that hearty-healthy omega-3 fatty acids can help boost brain function in people with coronary heart disease.
Omega-3s linked to better brain function
Researchers investigated the effect of long-term supplementation with eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the two most important types of omega-3 fatty acids – in 250 cognitively healthy individuals with coronary heart disease. Half of the participants took omega-3 supplements for 30 months while the other half did not take any supplements. The researchers administered the maximum recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
After 30 months, the researchers found that those who took omega-3 supplements had better coordination, reaction speed, memory and recall than those who did not. The team noted that the younger, nondiabetic participants experienced the greatest benefit.
“Other researchers have looked at omega-3 fatty acids in people who already have cognitive impairment or dementia,” said Dr. Francine Welty, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s investigators.
“But the people we looked at were cognitively healthy, and we found there may be a benefit from omega-3 fatty acids before cognitive decline begins,” Welty continued. The finding is important as it was previously unclear whether omega-3 fatty acids help prevent dementia.
More studies about the health benefits of omega-3s
EPA and DHA are known to help keep the brain sharp. These healthy fats boast potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that help promote healthier brain cells and slow down the aging of the brain.
Research also shows that EPA and DHA play an important role in normal brain function. A review published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience shows that they keep cell membranes healthy and help facilitate communication between brain cells.
In another review, published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that a diet without omega-3 fatty acids is associated with learning and memory deficits in mice. Normal brain function can be restored, however, by boosting one’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA, according to the researchers.
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids do not stop there. These healthy fats also benefit the heart through the following: (h/t to MayoClinic.org)
- Lowering triglycerides levels
- Lowering blood pressure levels
- Reducing blood clotting
- Reducing irregular heartbeats
- Decreasing the risk of strokes and heart failure
Many studies have shown that plaque buildup can lead to both coronary heart disease and vascular dementia. This type of dementia can develop when a stroke blocks an artery in the brain. Fortunately, omega-3 fatty acids have the dual power of boosting heart and brain health. (Related: Consuming EPA and DHA omega-3 produces a “desirable” Omega-3 Index score and also reduces your risk of heart disease.)
Consume more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardine, cod, herring, tuna and other kinds of fatty fish. Be sure to grill, broil and bake the fish instead of deep-frying it. This will ensure that you get the most out of omega-3 fatty acids.
Learn more about the health benefits of omega-3s at Omega3.news.