Bethesda, Md. (July 6, 2015)—Fish oil is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the U.S. because of the perceived cardiovascular benefits of the omega-3 it contains. However, scientific findings on its effectiveness have been conflicting. New research in Physiological Reports supports the claims for seniors, reporting that taking omega-3 fish oil supplements every day can improve the cardiovascular health of healthy seniors after 12 weeks of use.
Risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age because the arteries become stiffer. Arterial stiffness affects how blood travels through them and ultimately how strongly the heart needs to pump. The most commonly used measures of arterial stiffness are pulse wave velocity (PWV) and augmentation index. When the heart ejects blood into the blood vessels, pressure increases, creating a bulge in the vessel. PWV is the speed at which the bulge ripples through the arteries. When the pressure pulse hits a fork in the arteries, part of the pressure pulse bounces back towards the heart and combines with the new pulse coming out of the heart. How much the reflected pulse enhances the new one is called augmentation index. High PWV and high augmentation index values reflect stiffer arteries.
Reported cardiovascular benefits of omega-3 include reduced arterial stiffness seen through improved PWV and augmentation index. In this new study, researchers at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine examined whether omega-3 supplements could reverse the effects of aging on the blood vessels in healthy older adults and reduce PWV and augmentation index.