Eat Fish To Stay Away From Heart Disease

 By: Ng Peng Hock
Eat more fish to help prevent heart disease. This is the advice we usually get from doctors or scientists because omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil, benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of or who have cardiovascular disease. It seems that fish oil for health is a non-controversial issue among all health experts, from traditional to alternative.

A very early study on fish oil conducted in 1989 on 2,033 men with heart disease were divided into 3 groups each of these group had been told to eat extra fat, fiber, fish respectively. Two years later, researchers found that men who had eaten fish at least twice a week had a 29 percent lower death rate than the other men. This finding suggested that the fish oils helped to prevent irregular heartbeats and hence heart attacks. No benefit was found among the people in the fiber or fat groups. According to physicians, at least half of all heart attacks are caused by irregular heartbeats.

Another research paper presented at the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids congress held in Brighton in 2004 by Harvard University reported that doctors can predict patients who are likely to have a heart attack by testing their blood for fish fats. People at the highest risk have low levels of omega-3 fats found in fish oil. If blood levels of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids form less than 4 percent of the fatty acids in red blood cells, risk of death from a heart attack is at its greatest compared with a level of 8 percent when risk is at its least.

A simple blood test like this can in fact identify those people who are at the high risk of death from heart attack and sudden cardiac death. A relatively simple preventative solution of increasing omega-3 intake can then be employed to prevent an attack. But this will be helpful only if patients are prepared to discuss about diet with their doctors.

No doubt the research supported that eating oily fish such as salmon and tuna, rich in omega-3 fats, can provide protection against cardiovascular disease. It is still important for us to have a balanced diet containing fish, vegetables and fruits, low in salt and saturated and trans fats that will significantly reduce the chances of developing coronary heart disease.

Nevertheless, some experts do express their concerns on the possibility of contamination of mercury or other toxins found in most fish due to environmental pollution. Mercury and other toxic materials are unethically released into the environment from power plants, factories using chlorine and mining. These toxins end up in the oceans and lakes, where fish consume them. Eating fish high in mercury puts middle-aged men at a greater risk for coronary heart disease and may offset the protective effects of omega-3 fatty acids in some seafood, according to a Finnish study. As such, some doctors or experts rather recommend taking high-quality fish oil supplement that is free from mercury or other toxins instead of consuming fresh fish.
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