The evidence supporting the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for heart health is mounting. Omega-3s play a crucial role in the formation of cell membranes throughout the body, and they're integral for the production of hormones that regulate inflammation, blood clotting and the relaxation of artery walls.
Research has found that omega-3 fatty acids protect your cardiovascular system in a number of ways, including the following: [source: Cleveland Clinic]
- They help to lower levels of cholesterol -- the fatty, waxy substance that can build up in your arteries and form plaques that increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
- They reduce levels of unhealthy fats called triglycerides in the blood by as much as 30 percent. High levels of triglycerides have been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease
- They decrease the risk of abnormal heartbeats, or arrhythmias, which can lead to sudden death.
- They might help prevent blood clots from forming. Clots that break off and block a coronary artery to the heart can cause a heart attack. Clots that block the flow of blood to the brain can lead to a stroke.
- They can slightly lower blood pressure, which is another risk factor for heart disease
- They reduce inflammation in the body, which helps prevent the blockage arteries from becoming blocked.
- They prevent the re-narrowing (restenosis) of coronary arteries after angioplasty surgery [sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and American Heart Association]
Omega-3s are so good for your heart that eating fish just once or twice a week might reduce your risk of dying from a heart attack by a third [source: Mayo Clinic]. That's why the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least two servings of fish in your diet each week [source: American Heart Association].