Omega-3 Fatty acids and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction

Wednesday, June 1 2011 3:11 PM - by Brett Kappelmann

This month we are lucky to have a PharmD candidate from the University of Kansas spending the month with us at Cooper Drug.  I am going to sit back, relax, sip some lemonade and let her take the reins for this month’s article.   –Brett Kappelmann

Did you know that Heart Disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States?  According to a report from the American Heart Association, statistical updates for 2011 showed that about every 25 seconds, an American will have a coronary event and about one every minute will die from one.  Although, there are other options (e.g. diet and exercise) that can help reduce and fight heart disease, I thought that I would take this opportunity to talk a little about the correlation between Omega-3 Fatty Acids (also known as Fish Oil) and the reduction in the risk of Cardiovascular Disease.

Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for a variety of functions in the body.   They can be found in foods such as fatty fish and vegetable oils, but can also be found as dietary supplements.   Interest in Omega-3 fatty acids seemed to be sparked about 30 years ago due to a study in Eskimo populations with diets consisting of high fish consumption.  The study showed that they had very low death rates due to cardiovascular disease.  Although more studies are being done with fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids for a variety of diseases and conditions, evidence points to improving cardiovascular disease risk factors as the most promising.  For instances, studies showed that by either eating fish or taking fish oil supplements, one’s total triglycerides may be lowered, blood pressure may become slightly lower and the progression of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening of the arteries, may be slowed.

The overall use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements are relatively safe, however there are still some side effects and possible interactions when taking fish oil with other medications. Furthermore, it is not recommended that omega-3 fatty acids should be use as a reason to postpone seeing a doctor about a medical problem. If you are considering taking a form of omega-3 fatty acid supplement, it is always best to let your doctor and pharmacist know of any prescription medications, herbal medications and/or dietary supplements that you may be taking to avoid any unwanted interactions.