The effects of a heart attack can be reversed by taking omega-3 fatty acids. Researchers from the American Heart Association (AHA) have found that giving patients high doses of fish oil for six months daily after a heart attack can greatly reduce scarring in the heart muscle walls, along with improving their ability to pump blood. The findings were published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

“Our findings show that omega-3 fatty acids are a safe and effective treatment in improving cardiac remodeling, so it may be promising in reducing the incidence of heart failure or death,” said Raymond Y Kwong, MD, MPH, at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In a heart attack the oxygen-containing blood flow to the heart is blocked and in the absence of oxygen the cardiovascular muscles start dying. According to the AHA, every year more than 735,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack for the first time, out of which 120,000 die, while 300,000 of the survivors experience a recurrent heart attack.

A heart attack can change the shape and function of the heart. These changes are called post-heart attack remodeling, resulting in weak pumping action and development of scar tissues in the cardiovascular muscles. Such changes lead to a poor quality of life and health status, while increasing the risk of a recurrent attack. The situation is further complicated by the fact that not many heart healing therapies exist currently.

The clinical trial called OMEGA-REMODEL divided 360 heart attack survivors into two groups. One group was given the placebo while the other was given a daily dose of 4 grams of fish oil omega-3 fatty acids for six months. The researchers found patient given fish oil had remarkably less rate of fibrosis i.e., scarring and swelling, in both damaged and non-damaged regions of the heart. The leftover blood in the left ventricular walls also reduced, meaning the pumping action of the heart had improved since the attack. Likewise, the blood serum biomarkers of chronic inflammation also reduced as a result of the fish oil supplementation.

Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids has always been known for its positive role in maintaining heart health but their part in improving or healing the status of damaged heart tissues was previously unknown. Similarly, there were no guidelines or protocols for fish oil dosage and administration as part of a heart healing therapy. The result of the current research suggests there is an increased chance of a good and functional life after experiencing a heart attack, while reducing the risk of heart failure.

Heart attack, also known as myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction, is caused by the buildup of plaque in the arteries over many years in a condition called atherosclerosis. The formation of plaque can break open an artery which if large enough can completely block the blood flow of the artery, leading to a heart attack.

Other than a genetic inclination and an increasing age, lifestyle changes are majorly responsible for developing a heart attack. Dietary changes for the management of weight are especially important for the prevention of heart diseases. A diet consisting of heart friendly foods like fish, nuts, vegetable and fruits, which are naturally enriched with omega-3 FAs are especially recommended to avoid developing heart problems.

People already suffering from a heart disease or having gone through a heart attack cannot get enough omega-3 FAs through diet alone. Such individuals need increased doses of natural omega-3 FAs, necessary for heart rehabilitation, as seen in the current findings. Similarly, people not suffering from a heart affliction should not unnecessarily consume omega-3 fatty acids supplements without physician’s recommendations, which can lead to excessive bleeding. Studies have found that only 10% of the individuals consuming omega-3 FAs are doing so as directed by physicians, while the other 90% are consuming pointlessly, and such non-prescribed dosing often leads to adverse effects on the health. Clinical trials have shown the regular consumption fish oil supplements are not as efficient in preventing the risk of cardiovascular diseases when compared to natural dietary sources.

Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), consist of the components DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which have the potential to lower risk of arrhythmias i.e., abnormal heartbeats, lower triglyceride levels, slow down buildup of plaque and decrease blood pressure.

The AHA suggests normal individual without a heart problem should eat at least two servings of fish equal to 4 ounces every week to prevent the risk of developing any heart diseases. Especially, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and tuna, which have high concentration of omega-3 FAs, are recommended for intake. Oils extracted from these fish have seven times more omega-3 FAs than the fish meat, making their consumption suitable only for people with actual health problems.