NMU 95 –Omega-3 Index Linked to Lower Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease in Young and Older People
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 95 (July 11, 2018)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Omega-3 Index Linked to Lower Blood Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease in Young and Older People
Source: Journal of Hypertension (July 2018)
An important study was published in the July 2018 issue of the Journal of Hypertension, which showed that ingesting more omega-3 fats at a younger age is associated with the prevention of early-onset high blood pressure. In this study researchers examined over 2,000 young people, ages 21-40 years old, tracking their blood pressure during office visits and using a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring device to track blood pressure throughout the day. They also drew blood samples to evaluate the omega-3 fat content of their red blood cells (the red blood cell membrane), which established their individual omega-3 index.
When examining all the fats present in the outer skin of red blood cells (membrane), if omega-3 fat comprised 8% of all the fats, then the person is said to have an omega-3 index of 8%. If omega-3 fats comprised 4% of all the fats in the red blood cell membrane then the person would have an omega-3 index of 4%. Its really that simple and straightforward. Previous studies have shown compelling evidence that having an omega-3 index of 8% or higher is strongly linked to lower blood pressure in older subjects, as well as decreased risk of many cardiovascular problems, including congestive heart failure, heart attack and stroke. The 2018 study has shown that even in younger people, ages 21-40, that a higher omega-3 index is associated with a significantly lower risk of having borderline high blood pressure (pre-hypertension) or high blood pressure (hypertension) at this early stage in life. We know that blood vessels stiffen with aging, which tends to increase risk of high blood pressure as we age, but those with a higher omega-3 index (at or above 8%) seem to have some protection against age-related high blood pressure.
How do omega-3 fats help keep blood pressure in the safer range (under 130 over 80)?
In the body omega-3 fats are converted into mini-hormones called prostaglandin series-3, which help to open up and relax blood vessels (dilate) making it easier for the blood to flow. This lowers the resistance to blood flow, which ultimately helps to lower blood pressure. Omega-3 fats also help to reduce inflammation, including blood vessel inflammation, which is also shown to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and omega-3 fats help prevent the blood from getting too sticky (inhibiting platelet aggregation), which is a key factor in preventing heart attack, deep vein thrombosis and stroke.
Some reviewers point out that consuming 2,000 mg per day of omega-3 fats from a combination of fish (twice per week) and omega-3 fat supplements is the most effective way to ensure an omega-3 index at or above 8%, although other factors can influence this index including gender, age, physical activity, diabetes, body mass index, alcohol consumption and a few other factors. Nevertheless, aiming for 2,000 mg per day, on average, is likely a good guiding principle. Studies show that every 4,000 mg of EPA and DHA ingested per month increases your omega-3 index by 0.24%. Fish with the highest omega-3 fat content include salmon, herring pickled, tuna Bluefin, mackerel, sardines (canned in oil) and oysters (steamed). Examples of fish which contain intermediate amounts of omega 3 (EPA + DHA) are swordfish, rainbow trout, sea bass, crab king, walleye, tuna (canned in water) and flatfish. When looking for an Essential Fatty Acid Supplement, I often recommend a combination supplement containing 400 mg of fish oil (30% EPA – 20% DHA), along with flaxseed oil (400 mg) and borage seed oil (400 mg). Taking 3 capsules per day provides 2400 mg of various omega-3 fats (EPA, DHA, and ALA), along with another key fatty acid known as GLA, which is also important to reduce inflammation and optimize skin texture and smoothness.
It’s important to point out that in recent years the incidence of high blood pressure among younger persons, ages 20-39 yrs., has increased from 4% to 19% within the North American population. Increasing the omega-3 index appears to be one way to help reverse this trend, along with engagement in regular exercise, maintaining an ideal body weight, not smoking, using alcohol judiciously and in some cases, watching sodium intake.
As always, I’ve included the research papers for this information in the text below.
1. Journal of Hypertension: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Whole+blood+omega-3+fatty+acid+concentrations+are+inversely+associated+with+blood+pressure+in+young%2C+healthy+adults
2. Omega-3 Index Research Review: https://www.docsopinion.com/2015/10/05/the-omega-3-index/
3. Higher Blood Pressure In Young Adults 20-39: https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/fall11/articles/fall11pg10-11.html
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