The heart is one of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. It also keeps the body functioning by pumping blood throughout the body.
As people age or neglect their bodies, illnesses related to the heart can surface. Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of death in Australia with 41,000 cases in 2018 (1). Also, hospitalisation related to cardiovascular issues increases during weather or temperature spikes (2). This can be seen more in winter compared to summer, as older people are more sensitive to the cold weather.
To have a healthy heart, you need to lead a healthy lifestyle by exercising daily and eating a well-balanced diet. Taking supplements can boost the effects of the right food and exercise on the body. One of these supplements is fish oil as it is known to have benefits to support heart health.
The heart plays an integral part in getting nutrients and oxygen to different parts of your body. If not taken care of properly, it can lead to serious illnesses. Understanding what the cardiovascular system is and how it works can help us maintain a healthy heart.
The heart is located in your upper body behind the bones in your chest. You can feel a soft thump when you put your hands on top of it. It has a similar size as your fist when clenched (3). One special thing about the heart is its chambers. There are four chambers that are separated by a septum or a wall to differentiate the left and right sides of the heart. Each side has an atrium and a ventricle that collects and pumps out blood. Valves are also found in it to act as a stopper so that blood will not flow backward.
Different veins and arteries circulate the blood inside the body as the heart beats. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart, while the veins bring it back once it has delivered the oxygen to the different body parts. The major vein and arteries of the heart are the venae cavae and the aorta which is designed to deliver deoxygenated and oxygenated blood to the heart. The heart is also connected to different smaller arteries and veins which are divided into where it will go, whether to the upper or lower part of the body. There are also pulmonary and coronary veins and arteries that go directly and back to the lungs and heart (3).
Your heartbeat is the motion that helps circulate blood inside the body. With one pump, deoxygenated blood goes to the right atrium. It then passes through the right ventricle, from where it journeys to the lungs and stomach to receive oxygen and nutrients. It then returns back to the left atrium of the heart and moves to the left ventricle (4). The next pump moves it to different parts of the body. This cycle continues when it returns to the heart after it releases oxygen and nutrients.
Cardiovascular disease affects 4 million Australians and is 1 in 4 causes of death (7). The risk is greater as you age, as the heart and body might not function as efficiently as they did before. Understanding heart diseases and their causes can help in preventing illnesses and maintaining a healthy lifestyle (8).
Creating and sticking to an exercise routine can get your body on track towards a healthier lifestyle. Not only does it reduce the risk of heart attack or developing heart illnesses, it also strengthens your bones and tones your muscles. It does not have to be a gym routine as long as you keep your body moving. Even house chores and playtime with your kids in the garden can be considered a form of exercise.
Understanding your body can also be a way to take care of your heart. Consult with your doctors on how to further improve your cholesterol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can lower the risk of heart disease. Eating healthier fats and less salt can give the same nutrients that you need without the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. Supplements can also help increase the intake of vitamins and nutrients that you need.
For a heart healthy diet, the Heart Foundation recommends that Australians regularly take legumes, vegetables, fruit, wholegrain cereal, lean meats and alternatives, reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt and alternatives, seeds and nuts, and healthier oils (24). A heart-healthy diet also includes limiting salt.
However, an important part of your daily diet should also include fish, including oily fish (24). In the event that a person cannot fulfill certain nutritional needs from eating seafood, they may consider fish oil supplements.
Using fish oil benefits your body by reducing cholesterol levels and improving blood pressure and heart rate.
Fish oil is the fat that is extracted from fish tissue or liver. It is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have a variety of health benefits. There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fishes - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (9). You can also get omega-3 fatty acids from plant oils which are called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).
Fatty acids are not produced by the body, therefore we can consume them from sources such as food and supplements. It is essential for hormones to regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and the functions of arteries.
Side effects of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can include fatigue, poor memory, dry skin, heart problems, mood swings or depression, and poor circulation.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements (fish oi) can be used to supplement the daily dietary requirements for EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. Here are some of the benefits of adding fish oil into your diet:
Research from the National Health and Medical Research Council summarised that people who eat fish can help lower the risk of cardiovascular (10), improve insulin resistance, fight inflammation and heart disease risk factors in people with metabolic syndrome It has been found that the higher the frequency of fish intake, the lesser the incidence of heart disease (11). A 20-year study showed that heart disease mortality is 50% lower compared to those who did not add fish to their diets (12).
Blood pressure describes the force of blood flowing through the arteries, while heart rate shows how fast, slow, or consistent your heartbeats are. These factors show how efficiently the blood is circulating throughout the body. Hypertensive patients given fish oil supplements saw their blood pressure going from higher, to lower and safer blood pressure readings (13). Similarly, omega-3 fatty acids were shown to reduce resting heart rate (14).
Triglycerides are a type of fat that is found in your blood which gives the body energy to be used by cells. But high triglycerides in the blood are linked to heart diseases. A study found that subjects given fish oil saw a 16% decrease in the triglycerides found on their system (15). This is also reflected in another study which found a 20 to 30% decrease in the triglyceride levels of people given 4 grams of prescription omega-3 (16).
Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver and also found in some foods. There are two types of cholesterol which are high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or ‘good cholesterol’, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad cholesterol’. HDL protects the body from heart disease, while LDL can clog up the arteries if its levels are too high.
Fish oil benefits the body by increasing ‘good cholesterol’ and slightly improving ‘bad cholesterol’ contents in the blood. A study showed that patients who took fish oil daily saw a 14% increase in HDL levels (17).
Plaque buildup happens when the arteries are blocked by fatty substances. This may be due to poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking. Fish oil benefits the arteries by lessening the progression of plaque. Several studies have shown that patients suffering from plaque buildup in the arteries saw reduced plaque after adding omega-3 to their diets through food and fish oil (18).
Inflammation is one of many factors in the body that can cause heart diseases. It is the body’s natural response to fight off injuries and infections. Fish oil can introduce anti-inflammatory effects in the cardiovascular system. Studies found out that omega-3 fatty acids helped reduce the eicosanoids, or molecules related to inflammation (19). It was also observed that the more omega-3 fatty acids present in the body, the less prostaglandins, or lipids seen in areas of infection or tissue damage, are created (20).
The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends at least 2 to 3 servings of fish per week to meet the 200 to 500 mg daily requirement of omega-3 fatty acid (21).
These fish can be either fresh, smoked, or canned, depending on what you prefer. Some of these options include:
The foundation states that pregnant women can also benefit from fish consumption as it can help maintain cholesterol and blood pressure during pregnancy. It is important to note that pregnant women may have to refrain from smoked fish due to possible bacteria retained during the smoking process, and certain fish that have high levels of mercury (21). Instead, they are advised to eat:
Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in other foods which are not from marine-based sources. These are helpful for people who choose to be on vegan or vegetarian diets. Some of these plant-based foods are walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, canola, and soybean oils. The National Heart Foundation of Australia recommends adding 1 gram of plant-sourced omega-3 fatty acids to any vegan or vegetarian diet each day (23).
You can also receive fish oil benefits through supplements, which are especially beneficial for those with high triglyceride levels.
Vitable’s fish oil is sourced from the pristine waters of Norway which has the condition suitable for fishes to thrive. Because of its location, environment, and temperature, it is known for its high-quality seafood resources. Using fish from this location, you can expect to have one of the most potent and pure fish oils in the market.
Aside from this, our fish oil undergoes a tedious refinement and testing process to produce one of the best fish oils in the market. This fish oil is packed with maximum freshness and quality. It ensures that people will be able to enjoy all the fish oil benefits that it has to offer for the heart.
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Learn more about other areas that fish oil can help you with, plus other supplements that can benefit in different ways:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.