Category Archives: omega-3

Could fish oil lower your risk of stroke?

fish oil. stroke, healthy fat, health, heart healthStroke continues to be one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States.  And even if a person survives a stroke, they may face permanent disability from a stroke. In turn, having a stroke could greatly impact a person’s quality of life. This is why it’s so important to keep learning more about how this disease can be prevented. A recent study shows that taking a fish oil supplement each day may help lower risk of stroke.

What is stroke?

Stroke is a form of vascular disease that affects the arteries to and within the brain.  A stroke occurs when these vessels become blocked by a clot or bursts. A stroke caused by a blockage is called an ischemic stroke. On the other hand, a stroke called by a ruptured vessel is called a hemorrhagic stroke.

Since these arteries normally carry oxygen and blood to the brain, this blockage can be deadly. If the brain, or the control center of your body, doesn’t receive oxygen or nutrients, then brain cells can die. This in turn can wreak havoc all over your body.

Depending on what area of the brain the stroke occurs, different complications can occur. A right brain stroke can cause paralysis on the left side of the body, vision problems, and memory loss. On the other hand, a stroke on the left side of the brain can cause paralysis on the right side of the body, speech problems, and memory loss.

Either way, these complications can greatly affect quality of life. However, by taking care of your heart health, you can lower your risk of stroke.

What is fish oil?

Fish oil is a supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. Two of the primary long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil supplements are DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, and EPA, or eicosapentaenoic acid.  These fatty acids are marine-based, hence fish oil supplements.

The omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are well-known for their role in heart health. Study results show that fish oil works well as a supportive treatment, along with statins, to help lower heart disease risk. The average fish oil supplement provides about 1000 milligram of fish oils, containing about 180 mg EPA and 120 mg DHA or more.

An example of a high quality fish oil supplement is the formula developed by Vita Sciences. This fish oil by Vita Sciences contains 400mg of EPA and 300mg of DHA in a 1000 milligram fish oil supplement.

Stroke and fish oil research

A recent study analyzed data from about 55,000 people enrolled in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health study. They completed dietary surveys and had baseline adipose tissue analysis completed. Then, the individuals had follow-up assessments after 13.5 years to check for ischemic stroke status events, if any.

Study results show that those with higher adipose tissue content of EPA showed a lower risk of total ischemic stroke.  Also, lower rates of large artery atherosclerosis were seen with higher intakes of total marine n-3 PUFA, EPA, and DHA.

Other ways to reduce stroke risk

Besides taking a fish oil supplement each day, here are some other ways you can lower your stroke risk.

  • Quit smoking if you already do. This is because smoking can constrict blood vessels. This, in turn, can raise blood pressure and increase risk of stroke.
  • Maintain heart health by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels in a healthy range. You can do this by eating a diet rich in fiber and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Also, be sure to move more on a regular basis to keep your heart muscle strong and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range. This is because those with diabetes are at higher risk for heart health issues than those without diabetes.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. By having your labs done at least yearly (or more often if you have a chronic disease risk), you can track your progress. Early detection of heart health issues can help lower your risk of stroke.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD

References:

American Stroke Association (accessed January 23, 2019) “About Stroke.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (last reviewed November 28, 2017) “Stroke.” https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/index.htm

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (accessed January 23, 2019) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Essential Contribution.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/

Hughes, S. (January 17, 2019) “Fish Oil, Particularly EPA, Linked to Reduced Ischemic Stroke.” https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/907950

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (last updated November 21, 2018) “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (last updated October 29, 2018) “Reduce Your Risk of Stroke.”


  • Could a Mediterranean diet improve your brain health?

    heart, cardiovascular, brain, heart healthy, omega-3, vessel, cholesterol, diabetesYou can’t talk about a heart healthy lifestyle without at least referring to the Mediterranean diet. That’s because this Greek-style eating plan is full of heart healthy foods and other healthful tips. But did you know that this diet is also good for brain health? Recent research shows that certain nutrients found in the Mediterranean diet can help with brain health aging in older adults.

    What is the Mediterranean diet?

    The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy diet based on healthy fats like olive oil. Along with olive oil, healthy fat-containing foods like fatty fish, avocado, olives, nuts, and seeds make up the largest portion of the diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods can help lower blood fats, also known as triglycerides. In addition, these fats can also help improve blood pressure and blood vessel health.

    The majority of foods in this eating plan are plant-based. In other words, this means eating plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. These foods will also provide fiber and important nutrients like potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. This also means switching to whole grains if you’re going to eat breads or pastas.  Also, it encourages consuming fiber and protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.

    Other eating guidelines of this diet include limiting whole-fat dairy products, red meat, processed foods, and foods high in sodium. This eating plan also encourages use of spices to flavor food instead of using table salt.  Finally, to maintain a balanced healthy lifestyle, this diet encourages exercise and eating meals with family and friends.

    Mediterranean diet and brain health

    A recent study looked at healthy, older adults and how a Greek-style diet affected brain health. MRI scans and cognitive function tests measured brain health. These tests were done throughout the study and two years after the study to assess the diet’s impact on brain health.

    The researchers focused on 32 nutrients found in this diet. These nutrients included folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and vitamin D. Also, the researchers looked at antioxidants found in the Greek-style diet like omega-3 fatty acids, lycopene, and carotenoids. Study results show that such nutrients, along with omega-6 fatty acids, were involved in biomarker patterns. Also, those people who ate foods with such nutrients had better results on cognitive function tests of general intelligence, memory, and executive functions like attentional and inhibition control.

    Take home message

    So, if the heart healthy benefits of this eating plan haven’t convinced you to go Greek-style in your eating, hopefully the brain health factors did. This is because this diet has shown time and again that it ranks on top for health benefits.  Therefore, take small steps towards such an eating plan. You can do this by starting to eat more vegetables one day. Then maybe trying new recipes that use olive oil to roast or stir-fry those vegetables. Finally, you can add in nuts and/or seeds as snacks for even more healthy fats and fiber.

    If you feel like a supplement would help you at first, then try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. An example of a high quality omega-3 fatty acid is the fish oil supplement by Vita Sciences. This fish oil supplement contains a healthy balance of EPA and DhA, which are two important omega-3 fatty acids for brain health. Not to mention that this supplement is burpless and ensures optimal purity.

    Therefore, if you’re thinking about starting a healthy lifestyle this new year, consider the Greek-style diet. Not only will it help you work towards just about any health goal you have, but it will taste fresh and delicious in the process.

    References:

    Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: A heart-healthy eating plan.”

    Paddock, Ph.D., C. (December 21, 2018) “Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging.” Medical News Today.

    Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases.” Nutrition today52(5), 208-222.

    Zwilling, C.E., Talukdar, T., Zamroziewicz, M.K., and Barney, A.K. (March 2019) “Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and fMRI measures of network efficiency in the aging brain.” NeuroImage, Volume 188, 239-251.