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Omega-3s for Middle-aged and Older Adults

As you get older, the risks of serious conditions like heart disease grow. The good news is that omega-3s have their best established benefits in people of this age group.

  • Heart health. “Omega-3s have enormous benefits from a cardiovascular standpoint,” says Erminia M. Guarneri, MD, a cardiologist and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine. Not only do they help prevent problems in healthy people, they also cut the risk of complications and death in people who already have heart disease. Omega-3s seem to help keep the heart rhythm steady. One study found that people who had already had a heart attack and took fish oil had a 45% decrease in the risk of heart-related death. Fish and fish oil also seem to slow down arteriosclerosis and lower the risk of strokes.
  • Triglyceride s. The omega-3s -- DHA and EPA -- can slash triglyceride levels by 20% to 50%. The effect seems to depend on the amount, so your doctor might recommend fairly high doses. The effects of omega-3s on other types of cholesterol are less clear.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis. While the evidence isn’t conclusive, a number of studies have found that fish oil can reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, like morning stiffness and pain. High doses – of 3 to 4 grams -- may be necessary. No one should be on such a large dose without the supervision of a doctor.
  • Osteoporosis. Studies have found that people who eat higher levels of fatty fish than average have greater bone density in the hip. One study found that fish oil – in combination with calcium and primrose oil – increased bone density in older people with osteoporosis.
  • Memory, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Several studies have found that diets high in fatty fish may help prevent memory loss and lower the risk of dementia in older people. However, other studies have not found a benefit. Recent studies have also evaluated whether the omega-3 supplement DHA can slow the decline seen in people with Alzheimer's dementia or in age-associated memory impairment. One recent study showed that DHA can be a beneficial supplement and may have a positive effect on gradual memory loss associated with aging.

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