The Food and Drug Administration has approved a drug derived from fish oil for some patients with elevated triglyceride levels to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular events. The drug contains a certain type of omega-3 fatty acid and can be used as an add-on therapy for people on a statin.
Does this mean you should take fish oil supplements? Dr. Stephen Kopecky, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, offers insight.
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Does fish oil really help reduce your risk of heart disease?
"Yes," says Dr. Kopecky. "You probably ought to eat about 6 ounces of fish three times a week. Almost a pound of fish a week would be the idea. Most people don't do that."
Fish oil is a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for muscle function, including that of your heart. Omega-3s help reduce the risk of heart attacks, high triglycerides and high blood pressure. Dr. Kopecky says people who have high cholesterol and triglycerides over 200, and people who are vegan or don't eat fish should consider taking omega-3 supplements.
"A pill doesn't take the place of a healthy lifestyle. It has to be in addition to it," says Dr. Kopecky.
Dr. Kopecky says taking an omega-3 supplement plus regular exercise, not smoking, getting sufficient sleep, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and, if you can, eating fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, can improve your heart health.
"If you can do a little bit over time, it's been shown to help tremendously," says Dr. Kopecky.