Eat your Omega-3 and Avoid a Heart Attack

Omega-3 fatty acids are touted as helping in preventing heart conditions. The actual levels of omega-3 in the general population is unknown – until now with the release of data from Statistics Canada. They found that more than 9 in 10 Canadians had an Omega-3 Index level indicating that they may be at risk for coronary heart disease.

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In 2012 and 2013, the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS) measured red blood cell fatty acid levels, including omega-3 fatty acids and the Omega-3 Index (the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]). The levels reported are as a percentage by weight of total red blood cell fatty acids.

Blood concentrations of EPA and DHA are a strong reflection of dietary intake. The Omega-3 Index is considered to be a good indicator of the potential risk for coronary heart disease mortality. Results of the 2012 and 2013 CHMS indicated that 2.6% of the population were considered at low risk for coronary heart disease, while 54.6% were at intermediate risk and 42.7% were at high risk. This means that more than 9 in 10 Canadians are at risk of a heart attack.

The risks of coronary heart disease associated with Omega-3 Index levels are as follows (as a percentage by weight of total red blood cell fatty acids):

  • high risk (less than 4%),
  • intermediate risk (4% to 8%) and
  • low risk (greater than 8%).

Results on Omega-3 Index levels show that the average Omega-3 Index for Canadian adults was 4.5%. Males averaged 4.3%, which was significantly lower than females at 4.7%, which means men are more at risk than women.

How can you increase your omega-3 fatty acids? A number of factors, especially diet and supplements, can affect your levels.

Canadians who reported eating fatty fish within the last month had a significantly higher Omega-3 Index at 5.0% compared with 3.8% for those who did not report consuming any fatty fish.

In addition, Canadians who reported taking a supplement containing omega-3 within the last month, had a significantly higher Omega-3 Index at 5.9% compared with 4.3% for those who did not report consuming this type of supplement. Most supplements are derived from fish sources. For those who wish to not have a animal-sourced supplement, there are supplements available sourced from plants.

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Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids, either through eating more fish or taking supplements, can decrease your risk of coronary heart disease.

Source: Statistics Canada

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