Reduced omega-3 and elevated trans-fatty acid levels predict nonfatal heart attack better than established risk factors
An article published online on June 9, 2009 in the British Journal of Nutrition reported the conclusion of a study conducted by South Korean researchers that red blood cell fatty acid profiles may prove to be a better predictor of who is at risk of heart disease than Framingham risk factors.
Framingham risk scores are calculated from values for the following traditional risk factors: age, gender, smoking status, total cholesterol levels, HDL-cholesterol levels, diabetes history and hypertension history. While an individual’s Framingham score is 70 to 80 percent accurate in predicting coronary heart disease risk, it fails to take into account more recently recognized risk factors that could improve its predictive value.
The researchers, from the Hanyang University in Seoul, matched 50 men and women with acute nonfatal myocardial infarction (heart attack) with 50 age and gender-matched controls who did not have a history of heart attack. Red blood cells were analyzed for levels of trans-fatty acids (undesirable fatty acids found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), and the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (found in fish and the algae they feed on).
The omega-3 fatty acid index, which is the sum of red blood cell EPA and DHA, was significantly lower in heart attack patients compared with controls, while total trans-fatty acids were significantly higher. Those whose omega-3 fatty acid index was among the top third of participants had a 92 percent lower risk of heart attack than those whose levels were in the lowest third. For those whose total trans-fatty acids were in the top third, the risk of heart attack was 72.67 percent higher than subjects in the lowest third.
The authors note that omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased blood viscosity, and have anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic, anti-arrhythmic, lipid lowering and vasodilatory effects. Conversely, trans-fatty acids have been associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
“To the best of our knowledge, the recent study is the first to demonstrate that the fatty acid profile (lipidome) of erythrocytes can allow discrimination between acute non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI) cases and controls,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the fatty acid profile significantly and substantially improved acute non-fatal MI case discrimination compared with traditional CHD risk factors, suggesting that the erythrocyte fatty acid profile is more powerful than the Framingham risk score for identifying patients with acute non-fatal MI.”
“Although prospective validation and a larger study are required, fatty acid profiles may have clinical utility for non-fatal MI risk assessment,” they conclude.
Atherosclerosis is a far-reaching disease with devastating consequences. Life Extension’s program for reducing the risk associated with atherosclerosis is based on aggressive measures to promote a healthy endothelium and reduce risk factors associated with coronary artery disease. Because all adults are at risk of atherosclerosis, all adults should make the necessary lifestyle changes to protect their arteries. This means getting adequate exercise under the supervision of a physician and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Also, weight loss by obese and overweight adults is an important element in reducing risk of atherosclerosis.
People who have risk factors for atherosclerosis should take measures to modify them. Risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, obesity, elevated homocysteine, elevated risk of blood clots, and a pro-inflammatory state are covered in this section. The ideal nutritional approach to atherosclerosis takes into consideration all existing risk factors and attempts to modify each one.
Blood testing is a very important part of any risk-reduction program for coronary heart disease. Healthy adults should have their blood tested at least once a year. People who have heart disease or multiple risk factors should have their blood tested twice a year to monitor their progress. A comprehensive blood test will measure levels of blood lipids, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, fibrinogen, and other blood markers. Regular blood pressure monitoring is also important. Life Extension recommends an optimal blood pressure reading of 119/75. Life Extension also recommends that people aim for low levels of C-reactive protein, LDL, homocysteine, and other markers of disease.
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