Omega-3s tied to lower risk of irregular heartbeat

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People with higher-than-average levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood may be roughly 30 percent less likely than those with the lowest levels to develop atrial fibrillation, according to new Harvard School of Public Health research. Atrial fibrillation is a dangerous condition that tends to strike the elderly and can lead to stroke or heart failure.

“A 30 percent lower risk of the most common chronic arrhythmia in the United States population is a pretty big effect,” Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and senior author of the report, told Reuters.

The study, led by epidemiology department research fellow Jason Wu, was published online in the journal Circulation, Jan. 26, 2012. The researchers took blood samples from more than 3,300 adults over age 65 and tracked their health over 14 years to see how many developed atrial fibrillation.

The omega-3 fatty acids measured in the study are found in oily fish, fish oil supplements, and in some enriched foods, like eggs. While many health experts recommend eating fish at least twice a week, Mozaffarian told Reuters that most Americans don’t meet those goals. But he said the new study “should change people’s motivation.”