Oily fish can help repair damaged hearts

Omega-3, which is found in certain oily fish, can mend damaged blood vessels and help prevent heart diseases, a new study has found.

While it has been known for some time that oily fish can keep your heart healthy, the new study has found that it can actually help repair a damaged heart. 

Markers of heart disease

Professor Parveen Yaqoob, who conducted the study, tested two markers of cardiovascular disease - endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) and endothelial microparticles (EMPs). 

EPCs are stem cells that are made in the bone marrow. These cells help repair the linings of blood vessels after they are damaged. Higher levels of EPCs, means you have a lower risk of heart disease. 

The study found that those who had been given small amounts (3g per day) of fish oils containing omega-3 saw their levels of EPCs rise by up to 15%. 

EMPs are small vesicles, which are bubble-like structures that store and transport cellular products. These are shed when the lining of blood vessels is damaged. 

If someone has a high level of EMPs, then it indicates a high degree of blood vessel damage. This means they are at greater risk of heart disease. 

The study found that those who were given the oily fish saw their EMP levels drop by 20%. 

Surprising finds 

Prof Yaqoob said the findings were a surprise and offer an insight into why oily fish is good for our health. 

She says that now they know where the cells are coming from and what they are doing in the blood vessels, they can look at ways to target them to improve blood vessel health. 

In the UK, around seven million people suffer from some form of heart disease with one person every six minutes dying from a heart attack. 

Foods high in Omega-3

The Omega-3 fatty acid is commonly associated with oily fish, but it can be found in other foods as well. Here is a list of foods that contain high levels of this heart saving acid: 

  • Oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines – a typical 85g serving has between 1 and 2 grams of omega-3
  • None oily fish like cod – the same size serving has 0.15 grams.
  • Flax and hemp seeds – these have huge amounts of omega-3. 85 grams of flax or hemp seeds have around 11 grams of Omega-3.
  • Nuts – walnuts contain around 7 grams per 85 gram servings.
  • Broccoli – while most vegetables are fairly low in omega-3, broccoli has around 0.1-0.2 grams per 85 gram serving

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