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Omega-3 Supplements Reduce Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

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Omega-3 Supplements Reduce Risk of Stroke and Heart Attack

Dec 17, 2019

There are many potential health benefits associated with taking Omega-3 supplements, and there may be a new one to add to that list. New research found that fish oil supplements lead to a significant reduction in stroke and heart attack risk. Dr. Tom Miller explains the study and why you should ask your doctor if Omega-3’s are right for you.

Episode Transcript

Announcer: Health information from experts, supported by research. From University of Utah Health, this is

Scot: Many people take fish oil for a lot of different reasons. Some of the benefits, well, there's a lot of mays in front of these benefits. May support heart health, may help treat certain medical conditions, may aid in weight loss and the list goes on and on. However, we might be able to take the may off of one of those. Dr. Tom Miller is an internal medicine doctor here at University of Utah Health.

What might we possibly be able to remove the may from, as to what fish oil helps with?

Dr. Miller: Well, it's interesting. Let's start with a little bit of history. Some time ago, probably back in the '60s, maybe '50s, we understood that the native population up above the Arctic Circle, Innuits had low rates of heart disease, and it was postulated that perhaps their high diet in fish contributed to this.

Now, Arctic fish have high levels of omega-3. The idea was that if you took omega-3s, you might have less heart disease, lower incidents of stroke. This went on for a number of years, in fact a couple of decades, and it was never really very clear whether omega-3 supplements actually made a difference.

But in the last year there have been a couple of landmark studies that have employed the large number of patients required to sort this out. And it does appear for people who have high triglyceride levels and have some type of event, like heart attacks or they have coronary artery disease or they might have had a stroke, that omega-3s supplemented to their diet will prevent and lower the risk of a second event.

The exact number that they came out with in this trial is 25% reduction if you were to take four grams a day. Now that's a higher dose than most people take. Most people take one to two grams a day as a supplement. I think what needs to be determined going forward is what would be the adequate dose for those who have had an event versus those who've never had that event. Should they just take a one gram, standard daily dose, or should it be more? We don't quite know that yet.

And then, secondly, there seems to be less evidence that's it beneficial in people who have never had an event.

So it does appear for the first time that we have some pretty reliable evidence, especially in people who have had cardiovascular events and high triglycerides, that the addition of omega-3 to the diet can lower the risk of a second event.

Scot: If they take a four gram dose. Dosage is important. That was the question.

Dr. Miller: That was the study that was done on four grams. Is that the optimal dose? I don't think we know just yet, but at least we have signposts that tell us that this is going to be beneficial.

Scot: Is this something you should talk to your physician about, or if you know that you fall into this category, should you just go ahead and start taking a four gram dose?

Dr. Miller: I think it would be wise to talk to your physician, because you also want to have the rest of your metabolic profile tuned up. So you want to make sure your other cholesterol subgroups are taken care of. And that's why people are on statins for preventing secondary events of coronary disease. And then, if you high triglycerides, which statins don't treat, then it might be wise for you to start omega-3.

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