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Heart Failure Health Center

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Fish Oils May Be Lifesavers

Fatty Acids in Fish Might Save More Lives Than Defibrillators, Experts Say

Omega-3 Sources

Kottke's computer model was based on omega-3 fatty acids from fish.

But omega-3 fatty acids aren't just in fish. Other sources include walnuts, flaxseed, canola oil, broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, grape leaves, Chinese cabbage, and cauliflower.

Still, "fish oil has a lot more omega-3s than flax, and that's the same with ... walnuts," Kottke tells WebMD.

Fish oil supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids are another option.

If you eat fish two or three times weekly, do you still need supplements?

"Probably not," Kottke says. "It appears that that's adequate and that the benefit actually comes at fairly low levels of consumption."

Supplements aren't regulated as strictly as prescription drugs. So, if you opt for that source of omega-3, do your homework and choose a high-quality supplement from a reputable company.

If you do decide to take fish-oil pills, tell your doctor. That way, your doctor can keep track of all the medicines and supplements you're taking.

Not a Cure-All

Kottke stresses that his study didn't directly test omega-3 fatty acids in actual people to prevent sudden death. Such studies are being done in Italy and the U.K., he notes.

Eating fish or taking fish oil pills won't make up for smoking, inactivity, and other heart hazards, Kottke warns.

"We need to prioritize nutrition and physical activity right up there with brushing our teeth," he says.

His short list of lifestyle tips:

  • Don't smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit saturated fat.
  • Get enough physical activity - for example, taking 10,000 steps per day (a pedometer can help you keep count).
  • A limited amount of alcohol may also be healthy (maximum one drink a day for women, two drinks for men).
  • Eat a small amount of nuts regularly.

Kottke says he sprinkles almonds, banana, and peaches on his breakfast cereal. His evening snack is a glass of wine and some almonds instead of cheese and crackers.

"Nuts are very good for you," Kottke says. But nuts are high in calories, so don't overdo it.

The bottom line: Your daily habits -- including what you put on your plate -- matters. "It makes a huge difference," Kottke says.

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