Fish oils could mean better health after heart attack

Increasing treatment with Omega-3 fatty acids facilitates increased healing in patients who have had a heart attack, according to the results of a new study published in the journal Circulation.

The study authors pointed out that the cardiovascular benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil have been long touted, but this is the first time an MRI has shown a dose-sensitive reaction of the heart responding to the fatty acids from fish oil after a myocardial infarction.

Patients from three different Boston hospitals were selected for the study between 2008 and 2012 and given either one gram of an Omega-3 fatty acid medication or a placebo for six months after an acute myocardial infarction. At the end of the study, researchers used a cardiac MRI to check on the scarring, remodeling and volume of the left ventricle.

In patients who were assigned to take the Omega-3 fatty acid fish oil medication showed an average 5.4 percent reduction in their left ventricle end-systolic volume index (LVESVI), compared to the 1.2 percent expansion in the placebo group. The Omega-3 fatty acid participants also showed an average regression of non-infarct myocardial fibrosis of 2.1 percent, while the placebo-taking participants showed an average progression of 3.4 percent.

Further observation was performed on a subgroup of participants, with researchers looking to see if higher doses of Omega-3 fatty acids could lead to improved treatment outcomes. Each time the dose increased, the researchers said, they also say a “significant” improvement in many of the previously measured metrics. The patients who received the highest dose of Omega-3 fatty acids in the study saw the highest reduction in LVESVI, at 13 percent.

That finding could be important for post-heart attack patients, as the study points out that other research has found that LVESVI size after a heart attack is the best predictor for other post-myocardial infarction risks, such as heart failure or another heart attack.

The authors emphasized the clinical significance of these findings and called for more research: Anything that helps to heal the heart after a heart attack could help minimize the risk of heart failure, something that still remains fairly common.