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Get Heart Healthy with Omega-3's

Are you struggling to stay on a heart-healthy diet? Maybe heart disease runs in your family and you’re trying to take steps to prevent it. Or, you may have already been diagnosed with some form of heart disease and are implementing habits to reverse that diagnosis. Whatever your case may be, it’s not always easy to stick to what the doctor orders when it comes to your diet. It can be difficult to cut out a lot of the sugars and sodium that are linked to increased cardiovascular risk, and add the fruits, vegetables and whole-grain, high-fiber foods that help to lower it.

As challenging as making major dietary changes may be, the benefits have been proven. In the Nurses’ Health Study, which monitored the eating and lifestyle habits of 84,129 women who had not previously been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, the women who were the most likely to follow a diet high in cereal fiber, fatty acids and folate (iron) were at the lowest risk of having future cardiac problems.

Wait a minute. You may know what fiber and iron are, and how to get more of those nutrients into your diet. But what about fatty acids – what are those?

Fatty Acids - The Basics

Fatty acids, also known as Omega-3s, are a group of polyunsaturated, essential fats that includes alpha-linoleic acid (ALNA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Unfortunately, they cannot be produced internally by the human body and must be consumed through outside sources.

Omega-3s have been the subject of several studies over recent years that make a connection between regular consumption and improved heart health. They have been shown to reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular heart disease, sudden cardiac death, and are thought to lower blood pressure and heart rate, lower the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream and prevent excessive blood clotting.

Omega-3 Sources

According to the American Heart Association, soybeans, canola, walnuts, flaxseed and their oils contain alpha-linolenic acids that turn into Omega-3 fatty acids in the body. However, the conversion is not considered to be efficient, and doesn’t produce as much Omega-3s as can be found in other dietary sources, especially fatty fishes like salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, herring and mackerel. However, if you’re not a fan of fish, or need more omega-3s than you can get through diet alone, eggs enriched with Omega-3s, cod liver oil and natural dietary supplements can help. For example, if you have been diagnosed with a high triglyceride level, you need a higher dose of Omega-3s than the amount you would get by eating fatty fish the recommended two times a week or 1.1 grams a day for women (1.4 if pregnant) and 1.6 grams for men.

Fish oils rich in Omega-3s can be taken orally, but those who don’t like the taste and texture, Omega-3’s are also available in pill form in a variety of doses.

The bottom line is, Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to your heart health – regardless of whether you already struggle with heart issues or not. By adding them to your diet you’ll be well on your way to living a longer, heart-healthier life!

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