Fishing for a Healthy Heart

Omega 3 rich fish helps women lower heart disease risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Previous studies have shown that omega-3 derived from fish or supplements is beneficial to heart health in men. Little research has been done to determine whether women reap the same cardiovascular protection.

Young women of childbearing age also can reduce their heart disease risk by eating larger quantities of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

"Eat fish at least twice a week to promote heart health."

Marin Strøm, lead researcher and post doctoral fellow at the Centre for Fetal Programming at Statens Serum Institut in Denmark, said this marks the first study to focus on young women of childbearing age. He emphasized that the biggest challenge in telling younger populations about such a benefit is that it is generally not noticed for up to 40 years.

That's not the case in this instance, with a strong association with heart disease among women in their late 30s discovered, he said.

As part of the study researchers examined a Danish nationwide population-based pregnancy cohort to identify participants. They then called and interviewed or requested food frequency questionnaires from about 49,000 women between the ages of 15 and 49 in early pregnancy.

They were asked about the quantity and types of food they ate, how often they ate fish and about their lifestyle and family history. Women most commonly reported eating cod, salmon, herring and mackerel.

During an eight year follow up period, 577 cardiovascular events were recorded, which included five heart-related deaths among women not previously diagnosed with the disease.

Of those heart events, 328 were tied to high blood pressure, 146 were from cerebrovascular disease, and 103 were from ischemic heart disease.

Investigators found that women who rarely or never ate fish were 50 percent more likely to have cardiovascular problems over an eight year period as compared to women who ate fish regularly.

Women who rarely or never ate fish had a 90 percent greater heart risk as compared to those who frequently ate fish high in omega-3.

They also found that inpatient and outpatient hospital admission was higher for women who ate little or no fish. Three assessments over 30-day periods revealed that women who did not eat fish had a heart disease risk three times that of women who ate fish every week.

Women were found to benefit even if they ate fish only twice a month. Eating fish as a main meal at least twice a week is recommended.

The study was recently published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 6, 2011
Last Updated:
December 7, 2011