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Heart-Healthy Eating: Fish

Heart-Healthy Eating: Fish

Topic Overview

As part of a healthy diet, eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.

If you cannot eat fish, you can also get omega-3 fats from omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil.

Do not take fish-oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplements to lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Research has not shown that these supplements lower risk. 1

Fish as part of a heart-healthy diet

Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is not just for people who have existing health problems. It is good for all healthy adults and children older than age 2. Learning heart-healthy eating habits now can help prevent problems in years to come. Eating a heart-healthy diet can help you to:

  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Prevent or control diabetes.
  • Improve your overall health.

Heart diseases

Eating fish may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease.

In people who have heart problems, omega-3 fatty acids may help lower their risk of death.

Omega-3 fatty acids also lower the risk of sudden cardiac death and abnormal heartbeats.

Try to eat omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fish.

Stroke

Eating more than two servings of fish a week can lower your risk for stroke or TIA. Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and herring) lowers your risk more than other types of fish. 2

Fish safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommend that women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children should not eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, because these fish have higher mercury concentrations. But for middle-aged and older people, the protection fish offer the heart outweighs the risks of eating these fish. Eating a variety of fish may reduce the amount of mercury you eat. 3, 4

References

Citations

  1. Fish oil supplements (2012). The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapies, 54 (1401): 83–84.
  2. Chowdhury R, et al. (2012). Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online October 30, 2012 (doi:10.1136/bmj.e6698).
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish: 2004 EPA and FDA advice for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young children. Available online: http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/outreach/advice_index.cfm.
  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/FoodbornePathogensContaminants/Methylmercury/ucm115644.htm.

Other Works Consulted

  • Eckel RH, et al. (2013). 2013 AHA/ACC guideline on lifestyle management to reduce cardiovascular risk: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Circulation. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/early/2013/11/11/01.cir.0000437740.48606.d1.citation. Accessed December 5, 2013.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colleen Gobert, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian
Current as of April 8, 2014

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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