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Immunity, Lifestyle, Longevity
Brett Melanson, PhD
February 18, 2022
Brett Melanson, PhD
Thump-thump… thump-thump… thump-thump…
Feel that? That’s your heart working hard to pump blood through the blood vessels in your body so that each of your organs can receive the nutrients they need to function at their best.
When I say your heart works hard, I mean it works hard.
In fact, your heart will beat roughly 100,000 times every day to pump approximately 2,000 gallons of blood around your entire body. That’s hard work (1).
So, you should aim to take care of your heart in the best way possible.
That way, your heart can stay in shape and pump blood to make sure you live a long, healthy life.
One of the ways you can take care of your heart is by including omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
Here, we’ll break down what omega-3 fatty acids are, what the evidence says about their effects on the heart, and what kind of sources are available to get them from.
As well, we’ll include some other beneficial effects of omega-3 fatty acids on brain and eye health.
How Are Omega-3’s Good for the Heart?
Given the heart works exceptionally hard throughout the day, it is important to keep it nourished with healthy nutrients that can allow it to function at the highest level.
One of these nutrients may in fact be omega-3 fatty acids, especially in people who are diagnosed with coronary artery disease (2).
Specifically, many clinical trials have found that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids helped reduce the number of events related to heart disease.
Interestingly, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce blood pressure in people who have been diagnosed with hypertension (3), suggesting that supplementation with this PUFA may be beneficial to individuals who are looking to take control over their high blood pressure.
This may be the result of changing electrical impulses sent to the heart that can cause it to speed up or slow down too quickly.
Having a reasonably low heart rate is linked to a healthier, better functioning heart (6), and as it turns out, intake of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, have been associated with a lower heart rate, better electrical connections, and a more rhythmic heartbeat (7)
Main point: Several studies have shown that intake of foods or supplements rich in omega-3 can help improve heart function and suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful in coping with health issues associated with the heart.
What Else Are Omega-3’s Good For?
As it turns out, omega-3 fatty acids also have many positive effects in a variety of other health-related fields.
For example, omega-3’s have been shown to be essential for better brain development in infants when consumed by the mother (8).
As well, it is suggested that omega-3 fatty acids may help with cognitive function, as low levels have been detected in people diagnosed with age-related cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (9,10).
Another benefit of omega-3 intake may also involve eye health, as one study found that omega-3 fatty acids were able reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome in a study including over 500 participants (11).
Main point: Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for your heart, they appear to provide health benefits to your brain, cognition, and eyes as well.
What Are Omega-3 Fatty Acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are simply a type of fat molecule that belongs to the class of “polyunsaturated fatty acids”, or PUFAs for short.
And, no, fatty “acid” doesn’t actually mean that you’re consuming an acid.
Biochemists typically call molecules “acids” if they have a specific molecular structure, such as a carboxyl group (12) that stands out somewhere on the molecule.
The key word in PUFA is the unsaturated part, which simply reflects how the molecule appears in nature.
Main point: Omega-3 fatty acids are simply a type of “healthy” fat that is known to have beneficial effects on the body, specifically in brain and heart health.
How Can I Include Omega-3’s In My Diet?
So, omega-3 fatty acids appear to be good for overall health, but where do they come from?
Luckily, there are many sources of omega-3’s in the environment.
The sources from which you choose to get your omega-3 intake should be carefully considered if you are looking for specific types of omega-3’s, because there are a few important ones.
For example, plant oils are known to contain one type of omega-3 called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, which can be found in food items like soybean, canola oils, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds (16).
Of course, one of the largest sources of omega-3 fatty acids that you may have heard about is fish.
Fatty fish that are typically found in colder waters like mackerel, herring, tuna, salmon, and sardines are generally good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (17).
Moreover, fish that are farm-fed tend to have higher levels of eicosapentaenoic acid (or EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (or DHA), which are other types of omega 3’s.
Then again, this can also depend on the type of food fed to the fish (18).
You can also find foods that have omega-3’s like DHA added to them including eggs, juices, milk, and yogurt (19).
Finally, one of the easiest ways to include omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is through dietary supplements (20).
These mostly provide a solid balance of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and are an excellent way to improve your overall health.
Main point: There are many sources of omega-3 fatty acids, ranging from plant oils found in flaxseed to fish oils found in salmon or tuna. Getting an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can be easily achieved (even if you don’t like fish!) through dietary supplements like gel capsules or a chewable tablet.
Treat Your Ticker to Some Omega-3’s
Now that you know how hard your heart works to keep you energetic and functioning at an optimal level, go on and give your heart (and your brain, eyes, and so on) some love by ensuring your body receives the omega-3 fatty acids it wants and needs.
Choosing a well-balanced intake of omega-3 fatty acids in addition to including a healthy active lifestyle (21) is one of the best ways to improve cardiovascular health.
As always, you should discuss any changes to your diet or lifestyle with a healthcare professional.
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