The build-up of artery plaque, called atherosclerosis, is a condition that occurs when deposits of fats, cholesterol, calcium and fibrin – a blood clotting protein – accumulate on the inner walls of the arteries. Over time, serious health complications result, including heart attack and stroke. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may offer many advantages to patients with artery plaque; however, other lifestyle interventions such as weight loss, regular exercise, smoking cessation and cholesterol lowering must occur in conjunction with omega-3 fatty acid supplementation to reverse the condition.
One of the major risk factors in developing arterial plaque is high cholesterol, according to PubMed Health. Typically, high blood cholesterol occurs when the diet contains too much fat; however, it can also be a result of genetics. Eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid – commonly known as EPA and DHA, respectively – represent the active components of fish oil. According to Peter P. Toth, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, EPA and DHA demonstrate the ability to boost HDL cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol. This action lowers total cholesterol, which in turn helps to reverse artery plaque.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure represents another risk factor linked to the onset of artery plaque, according to the Texas Heart Institute. The pressure of the blood through the arteries can damage the walls, which makes the arteries more susceptible to the build-up of plaque. The EPA and DHA in fish oil demonstrate the ability to reduce high blood pressure, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Triglycerides are fats found in the blood. Elevated levels of triglycerides create more potential for artery plaque to grow; the fats circulate in the blood increasing the risk of sticking to existing plaque structures. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, numerous human studies demonstrate that both EPA and DHA significantly decrease the levels of triglycerides, which in turn contributes to less artery plaque buildup.
Lifestyle factors feature prominently in the development of artery plaque, according to PubMed Health. Excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise, smoking, obesity and diets high in fat all contribute significantly to artery plaque. While the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help reverse artery plaque, if these lifestyle issues aren't changed, the benefit will be minimal.
- PubMed Health: Hardening of the Arteries; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D., et al.; May 2011
- Texas Heart Institute; Heart Information Center; Coronary Artery Disease; July 2010
- "Circulation"; Cardiology Patient Page; The “Good Cholesterol” High-Density Lipoprotein; Peter P. Toth, M.D., Ph.D.; 2005
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Photos.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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