Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA–found in fatty fish such as salmon, flaxseeds, and soybeans and fish oil supplements–reduce blood pressure as effectively as lifestyle changes such as exercising more, cutting back on salt, or limiting alcohol, according to a recent meta-analysis published in American Journal of Hypertension.
That’s good news for the 70 million Americans who suffer from hypertension (HTN). Defined as blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, HTN is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke, contributing to about 1,000 deaths a day in the United States, reports the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Yet only 47 percent of those with HTN have the problem under control, according to the analysis.
Omega-3 fatty acids support brain function, including memory, reduce inflammation, and enhance cardiovascular health. Research suggests that people with lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratios have a reduced risk for such conditions as diabetes and heart disease.
WHAT ARE OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS?
Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) are fatty acids found in omega-3. EPA and DHA are commonly found in fatty fish, seeds, and nuts. However, many people do not get the necessary amounts of these essential fatty acids in their diet, so fish oil supplements are a common way to get these important nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA are used in the body for a variety of purposes, such as help maintain youthful skin, improve joint mobility, enhance mental functions (e.g., memory and alertness), and strengthen cardiovascular functions, which has a powerful effect on lowering blood pressure levels.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS & BLOOD PRESSURE
Recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension revealed that EPA and DHA were as effective, if not more effective, in lowering blood pressure than commonly recommended lifestyle changes like reducing alcohol consumption and sodium intake.
The researchers pooled data from 70 randomized clinical trials (RCTs) examining the effect of EPA and DHA from seafood, fortified foods, or supplements, on adults with and without high blood pressure who were given EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, fortified foods, or dietary supplements. The study included subjects with normal blood pressure and those with hypertension who were not taking blood pressure medications.
Results showed the most significant effects were observed in subjects with existing high blood pressure. Among those with high blood pressure, the average decrease in systolic blood pressure (SBP) was 4.51 mm Hg, and the average decrease in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was 3.05 mm Hg.
Other observations in the study showed an average decline in SBP of 1.52 mm Hg and in DBP of 0.99 mm Hg among all subjects. A drop in SBP by an average 1.25 mm Hg and in DBP by 0.62 mm Hg in normotensive subjects and an average decrease in SBP of 1.75 mm Hg and in DBP of 1.11 mm Hg among those subjects taking EPA and DHA supplements, like fish oils, regardless of blood pressure status.(1)
1. Miller, Paige E., Van Elswyk, Mary. Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid and Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Am J Hypertens (2014) doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpu024 First published online: March 6, 2014.