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High blood pressure is defined as having a systolic (top number) pressure of 140 or above and a diastolic (bottom number) pressure of 90 or above. Approximately 31% (1 out of 3) of American adults are estimated to have high blood pressure, a common risk factor for brain aneurysm, stroke, heart attack and kidney failure.1
Treatment for high blood pressure usually starts with your doctor recommending a healthier lifestyle. Many times, lifestyle changes alone will help you avoid, delay or reduce the need for blood pressure medication. When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to effectively lower your blood pressure, blood pressure medication is generally the next indicated step.
Over the last ten years, fish oil supplements have gained popularity as an important addition to the American diet. If you have high blood pressure, adding a fish oil supplement to your diet may help lower it. For years, scientists have studied the effects of omega-3 fatty acid on blood pressure and other health conditions. Dietary fish and fish oil supplements contain two of the most important omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).2
Research has demonstrated that omega-3 fatty acids have a number of important health benefits, including lowering triglycerides and cholesterol and reducing the risk of abnormal heart rhythm, heart disease and stroke.3
Results of a recent meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Hypertension found that omega-3 fatty acids are as effective – and in some cases more effective – at lowering blood pressure than other lifestyle changes. In fact, the study found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids lowered blood pressure by 4.51 mm Hg, compared to increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption and reducing sodium intake, which lowered blood pressure by 2.0 mm Hg, 1.4 mm Hg and 2.5 mm Hg, respectively.4
How much omega-3 is needed to have a lowering effect on blood pressure? According to the study, consuming 2 grams or more per day was associated with a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. A lower dose of 1-2 grams per day was associated with a reduction in systolic blood pressure, but not diastolic.
The American Heart Association (AHA) says that increasing omega-3 fatty acid consumption is best accomplished through dietary means. However, people with certain health conditions such as coronary artery disease may not be able to get enough omega-3 through diet alone and may benefit from supplementation. Before supplementing your diet with fish oil, ask your doctor how much you should be taking. The AHA says that taking up to 3 grams per day is safe but that higher doses aren’t recommended unless approved by your doctor.5
Since dietary omega-3 is best, it’s time to go shopping! If you love fresh fish like salmon and tuna, you’ll be happy to know that, aside from being delicious and low in saturated fat, seafood – especially oily fish like the following – tops the charts as being your richest source of omega-3 fatty acid:
Oil can be a great source of omega-3 fatty acid too:
Omega-3s are an important reason to eat your vegetables. Choose veggies like:
Don’t forget omega-3-friendly nuts and grains:
Last but not least, foods that are fortified with omega-3 fatty acid include:
Remember: before taking a dietary supplement, always talk to your doctor. Certain dietary supplements may interfere with the action of certain medications.
Author: Deborah Leader RN, BSN, PHN