• According to a new study published in Heart, adding fish to your plate two to three times a week can help lower the risk of an exercise-related heart attack.
  • The researchers found that eating fatty acids from fish was most beneficial for reducing the risk of heart attacks in men with a history of cardiovascular disease.
  • Eat more fish like salmon and mackerel, but limit your consumption of higher mercury fish like swordfish as these have been linked to heart disease.

    Adding fish to your diet can have a multitude of benefits: Research has shown it can help with everything from muscle regeneration to fighting off stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

    Now you may be able to add another one to the list. New research has shown that the long-chain omega-3 fats found in fish can protect your heart from an exercise-induced heart attack – especially if you have a history of cardiovascular disease.

    In a recent study published in the journal Heart, researchers recruited over 2,100 men, ages 42 to 60, to determine whether blood or hair levels of long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) – an indirect way of measuring the Fish consumption – their influence had coronary artery disease risk.

    They discovered that those in the highest quartile of omega-3 levels had a 33 percent lower risk of exercise-induced heart attack than those in the lowest quartile during the five-year study.

    Also, when looking at the amount of omega-3 levels in the blood of men with a history of heart disease, they found that those in the highest quartile had a 90 percent lower risk. The connection was much weaker among the men without the condition.

    Experts aren’t entirely sure why omega-3s can protect your heart from heart attacks caused by exercise. But it may have something to do with how it improves something called your coronary vasodilator reserve, which helps open blood vessels.

    The result? This can increase blood flow during exercise, especially in those with heart disease, study author Jyrki Virtanen, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Eastern Finland, told Bicycling. This is important because you are less likely to have a heart attack when the blood is flowing more easily to your heart.

    While the study only used men as participants, it’s possible that similar results could apply to women, although more research will need to be done to confirm this, Virtanen said.

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    Although omega-3 blood and hair levels were used in this study, higher levels can serve as a substitute for higher fish consumption. So adding more fish to your diet would be an easy way to increase your omega-3 levels and possibly protect your heart, Virtanen said.

    Follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations to eat fatty fish at least two to three times a week to lower your risk of coronary artery disease. It is most beneficial to eat two to three 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, or albacore tuna, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

    However, you may want to limit your consumption of high mercury fish like ahi tuna or swordfish. The study also found that higher levels of methylmercury in hair samples were linked to a higher risk of coronary artery disease and sudden death.

    “Species with higher long-chain omega-3 fatty acids like salmon contain less methylmercury,” Virtanen said. “So it is good to eat a variety of fish to minimize exposure to environmental pollutants.”


    Digital editor
    Jordan Smith is a writer and editor with over 5 years experience reporting health and fitness news and trends.

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