Wild-caught seafood is known to support our health in a variety of ways, but one of its most significant benefits is in regard to our heart health. By increasing our intake of omega-3 fatty acids through a diet rich in fish and shellfish, we can eat in a way that better supports our cardiovascular health.
Eating seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids at least one or twice each week is tied to a reduction of heart failure, stroke, and cardiac related death. This is important since heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in the U.S., an illness that accounts for nearly 1 in every 4 deaths — a figure that suggests that at some point in our lives, heart disease will affect ourselves or someone close to us.
On the bright side, the CDC suggests that nearly 80 percent of cases of cardiovascular diseases are preventable. One way we can all protect our hearts is by getting our diets in order. Omega-3 fatty acids help our body fend off some of the major preventable risk factors behind heart disease.
Lowers Triglyceride Levels
Omega-3s can prevent heart disease by reducing triglyceride levels in folks who have elevated levels of it in their bloodstream. Even having moderately high levels of triglycerides is tied to an increased risk of atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries that’s one of the leading causes of strokes and heart attacks.
Since 2002, the American Heart Association has recommended a dose of at least 2 grams of EPA and DHA each day if you’re trying to reduce your triglycerides. You can get that dosage from enjoying about 6 ounces of wild salmon or 12 ounces of a white variety of wild-caught fish every day.
Meanwhile, if your triglyceride levels are in the normal range or are only slightly elevated, consuming fish and shellfish on a regular basis can help keep them in check.
Improves Your Cholesterol
As for cholesterol, recent studies have suggested that increasing your omega-3 intake while decreasing omega-6 consumption is tied to better HDL levels. Getting more omega-3s into your diet can also increase the size of your LDL particles, which makes them less harmful. In other words, eating more of the high-quality, wild-caught stuff — especially in place of low-quality foods in your diet — can help you work toward a lipid profile that you can feel good about.
Prevents Deadly Cases of Arrhythmia
DHA and EPA can help keep your heart ticking regularly, potentially reducing your risk for developing arrhythmias that can lead to heart failure. Large, population-based studies have found that people who eat fatty fish on a regular basis are half as likely to experience cardiac arrest as people who eat less than one serving per fish each week.
A separate study found that eating three servings of fish each week was tied to a 58% lower risk of dying from an arrhythmia. In comparison, not getting adequate amounts of omega-3s each day can put someone at a tenfold risk for sudden cardiac death.
While there’s no consensus over how many servings of fish is ideal for preventing arrhythmias, at a bare minimum you’ll want to enjoy at least one serving each week, and you’ll likely benefit even more if you up your intake to at least two or three servings per week.
What About Supplements?
Experts haven’t been able to conclude whether fish oil supplements can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, though the research doesn’t seem to support the efficacy of fish oil supplements for people who have never experienced a cardiac event. A large study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that taking fish oil supplements was no better than taking a placebo.
In contrast, many population-based studies completed over the past few decades support the finding that regular fish and shellfish consumption is linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Based on these findings, wild-caught varieties of fish and shellfish have been a part of almost every diet expert-recommended designed to prevent chronic illnesses like heart disease.
Takeaways for Your Heart
One cardiovascular expert pointed out to the American Heart Association that variety is the spice of life, and that consuming a variety of fish and shellfish — rather than limiting yourself to just wild salmon, for example — help to make a healthy diet sustainable over the long run by keeping you from growing bored of the foods that you eat.
Enjoying at least one serving of wild-caught seafood each week, if not more, is a modest goal to aim for in any diet. If weight loss is your goal, check out our blog post on how to cook seafood to shed excess pounds. Or, if you’re fine-tuning your diet to reduce inflammation, we’ve got you covered in our post about the anti-inflammatory benefits of wild-caught seafood.