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Table of Contents > Articles > Fishing for a Healthy Heart
Fishing for a Healthy Heart

Fish have been the subject of research studies ever since scientists noticed that there are lower levels of heart disease and sudden cardiac death in countries where large amounts of fish are consumed. The secret ingredient is in fish oil. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which appear to slow the development of heart disease, guard against abnormal heart rhythms, and reduce the occurrence of clogged arteries and blood clots. Omega-3 fatty acids are some of the healthiest fats (there are healthy ones) and are found mostly in cold-water fish.

In one study, a group of people with heart disease took fish oil supplements for two years. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the people in this group had fewer heart problems and were more than twice as likely to have experienced improvements in their heart conditions than those in a comparable group not taking supplements. In another study, people with heart disease reduced their risk of cardiovascular death by up to 20% by taking omega-3 supplements every day. (In still other studies, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the symptoms of both arthritis and depression, and possibly the risk of breast cancer.)

The bottom line: eating fish just once a week significantly reduces your chances of having a heart attack. To get your omega-3s, you can purchase fish oil supplements or you can incorporate more fish into your diet. The fish that pack the highest amount of omega-3s per ounce are (in order): tuna, mackerel, herring, pink salmon, king crab, shrimp, cod, sardines, and trout. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish regularly; some experts recommend eating two to four servings of fish a week. So go fishing and get cooking for a healthier heart.

Suggested Resources

The American Heart Association's Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook: Heart-Healthy, Easy-to-Make Recipes That Taste Great. New York: Times Books; 1997.

Netzer, Corinne T. 100 Low Fat Fish and Shellfish Recipes. New York: Dell Pub.; 1997.

Gould, K. Lance. Heal Your Heart: How You Can Prevent or Reverse Heart Disease. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press; 1998.


American Heart Association's Web site. "Fish Oil: AHA Scientific Position and AHA Recommendation." Available at:

Brody J. "Eureka! Diet Both Savory and Good for Heart." The New York Times. 1999:Mar 23. Available at:

Brody J. "Nuts, Fish, Tea and More: Eating for a Healthier Heart." The New York Times. 1999: Apr 20. Available at:

Dr.Koop's Web site. "Ask the Nutrition Expert." . Question: What are good sources for omega-3? Available at:

Gruppo Itialiano Per Lo Studio Della Spravvivenza nell'Infarto (GISSI) Prevention Study. Presented at the American College of Cardiology 48th Annual Scientific Session; March 9, 1999; New Orleans.

Von Schacky C, Angerer P, Kothny W, Thesien K, Mudra H. The effect of dietary omega-3 fatty acids on coronary atherosclerosis. Ann Intern Med. 1999;130:554-562

Willoughby J, Schlesinger C. "Dark-Fleshed Fish: A Taste Worth Acquiring." The New York Times. 1999:Sept 15. Available at:

Book selections from

Review Date: November 1999
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Myocardial Infarction
Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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