Increasing levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in older adults lower the risk of dying and extend the years of remaining life later in life

April 12, 2013

Older adults with higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids may be able to cut their overall mortality risk by 27% and cut their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35% according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington. Also, older people with the highest blood levels of these healthy fats lived on average 2.2 years longer than those with lower levels.

These omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and shellfish, fish oil supplements and krill oil supplements. However, people taking fish oil supplements were not included in this study. The level of these oils in an individual’s blood can be checked by performing an Omega-3 Index as part of a regular blood test.

Sixteen-years prior the blood level of omega-3 fatty acids was checked in about 2,700 adults aged 65 or older. DHA, one of the fish fats, was most strongly related to a lower risk of dying from coronary artery disease with a 40% lowered risk. DHA lowered the risk of dying from an arrhythmia by 45%. EPA lowered the risk of nonfatal heart attack and a third fat called DPA was linked to a lowered risk of dying from a stroke. The study is published online in Annals of Internal Medicine.