What to Know About Fish Oil Dosage for Older Adults

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on April 07, 2023
3 min read

Fish oil supplements are a popular part of a sound nutrition regimen for many people of all ages. Doctors often recommend them because they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is very beneficial to your body, particularly your heart, eyes, and brain. It also decreases inflammation.

‌Older adults who take fish oil may find even greater benefits from the supplement. 

‌‌The American Heart Association endorses omega-3 fatty acids as a regular part of your diet. They recommend two servings of fatty fish per week to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. 

Supplements. Your body can't create these essential fatty acids naturally. Supplements and omega-3 rich foods are the only way to get them.

Lifestyle changes. To get the greatest benefits from taking fish oil supplements, combine them with lifestyle changes. Weight loss, regular exercise, and improving your diet will further reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and processed sugar in addition to choosing plant-based fats will also help. 

Medications. For older adults, there are even more considerations beyond the cardiovascular link. Omega-3 may also help lower your bad cholesterol, or triglyceride, levels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also approved prescription-only omega-3 medications. These are specifically for individuals whose triglyceride levels are higher than 500 mg/dL.

Just 4 grams of this prescription omega-3 per day can help most people lower their triglyceride levels by as much as 30%. Consult your doctor if you have other conditions such as hypothyroidism or Type 2 diabetes. These may cause your triglyceride levels to increase.

Fish oil for older adults is generally considered safe. Some people do report a few rather mild side effects of fish oil which can include:

  • ‌Heartburn
  • Bad taste
  • Nausea
  • Bad breath
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweat that smells “fishy”
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

Medication interactions. Keep in mind that fish oil can interact with certain medications. One of the most notable is its potential to interact with anticoagulants such as Coumadin or Warfarin. When taken in high doses, fish oil can increase clotting times which can cause problems with bleeding. 

Fish oil is not as potent as aspirin, but it does seem to affect blood clotting. Combining it with medications that prevent blood clotting could cause a problem. However, many doctors will monitor their patients rather than take them off of the fish oil supplements. In other words, it can be managed, and you can still get the benefits of the supplement.

It varies. ‌The FDA does not regulate fish oil and has not set any official recommendations regarding how much you should take each day. There have been some recommendations for certain types of fish oil, including DHA and EPA. The reference daily intake (RDI) of DHA and EPA is 250 to 500 milligrams.

If you are an older adult, you should lean toward the lower end of that scale. Older adults and the elderly typically shouldn't take more than 250 milligrams of EPA and DHA daily. However, when treating high triglycerides, your doctor may recommend up to 15 grams if you have high blood pressure and as much as 10 grams if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

‌When you are trying to include more omega-3 in your diet, one of the best things you can do is eat foods that are rich in the nutrient.  Incorporating these omega 3 foods into your diet is an easy way for you to reap its health benefits. Some of the most popular foods that have very high omega-3 levels are:

  • ‌Cod liver oil
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Flax seeds
  • Mackerel
  • Soybeans
  • Oysters
  • Herring
  • Chia seeds
  • Anchovies

Whether you use fish oil supplements or eat omega 3 rich foods regularly, you are making a choice that can provide your body with a number of great health benefits.