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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Congestive Heart Failure and Fish Oil

More good news about omega-3 fats.

Congestive heart failure (CHF) affects millions of Americans, killing 300,000 of us each year.  Nearly half a million new cases are diagnosed annually.  This condition, in which the heart is unable to adequately pump blood through the arteries, can be due to a weak heart muscle, a stiff heart muscle, or both. Heart attacks and high blood pressure are the usual suspects, but heart valve disease, sleep apnea, and obesity are also common causes.

When someone suffers from CHF, they become short of breath easily, since the lungs may become congested with fluid. Swelling in the belly and ankles are also symptoms of this disorder. Quality of life suffers and healthcare costs soar. The condition can usually be diagnosed with an echocardiogram, or ultrasound test of the heart.

We know that fish oil and other sources of omega-3 fats, including walnuts and flax seed oil, are protective for our hearts, but there has been some controversy regarding the impact of omega-3 fats on congestive heart failure. A report published in the August 2, 2011 edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine offers some good news on the subject.

Over 2,700 adults were studied from 1992 through 2006. Blood tests to measure levels of omega-3 fats were drawn at the beginning of the study. The more fish we eat (especially cold water fish like salmon and tuna), the higher our omega-3 levels will be. No specific recommendations about diet were given to the group. At the end of the study period, those whose omega-3 levels were the highest were 50 percent less likely to have developed CHF from any cause, even when other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes were taken into account.

It’s easy to get omega-3 fats into your diet, if you include salmon, tuna, and other cold water fish a couple of times each week. Adding walnuts to your breakfast cereal or lunchtime yogurt will also give your levels a boost. If none of these foods floats your boat, consider a fish oil supplement. Many supplements are derived from the Menhaden fish, an overfished species that helps to keep our oceans clean, but is increasingly threatened by overfishing. That’s why I prefer the one made by CardioTabs, since it is an ocean-friendly supplement that comes from cast-offs from the calamari industry.

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Tags: Congestive Heart Failure , Diet and Heart Health , Supplements

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.