Study Links Higher Omega-3 Index to Lower Blood Pressure

New research that will be published in the July edition of Hypertension shows that a high Omega-3 Index—a known risk factor for heart disease—is inversely related to blood pressure levels in healthy young adults.

The study evaluated 2036 healthy adults between the ages of 25 and 41. Anyone with cardiovascular disease, known diabetes or a body mass index (BMI) higher than 35 kg/m was excluded. The average Omega-3 Index was 4.58%.

Compared with individuals in the lowest Omega-3 Index quartile, individuals in the highest had a systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) that was 4 and 2 mmHg lower, respectively. The fact that a difference in blood pressure was detectable between an Omega-3 Index of 3.8% and 5.8%—only a 2% spread—suggests that the “effect” might have been greater if there was a wider range of Omega-3 Index levels to test.

The researchers concluded that a higher Omega-3 Index is associated with statistically significant, clinically relevant lower SBP and DBP levels in normotensive young and healthy individuals, and that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids—specifically EPA and DHA—might be a strategy for primary prevention of hypertension. These findings support a 2014 meta-analysis by Miller et. al., whichconcluded that omega-3 fatty acids have blood-pressure-lowering effects.

The death rate from high blood pressure increased by nearly 11% in the U.S. between 2005 and 2015, and the actual number of deaths rose by almost 38%—up to nearly 79,000 by 2015, according to recent statistics from the American Heart Association. Worldwide, high blood pressure affects nearly a third of adults and is the most common cause of cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

“This is great news, especially since the American Heart Association just announced in January that more than 100 million Americans have high blood pressure, putting them at risk for heart attacks and strokes. That is nearly half of all American adults!” said Dr. Bill Harris, co-inventor of the Omega-3 Index test. “The Omega-3 Index is one of the easiest risk factors to modify. All you have to do is consume more omega-3s from the right sources, such as fatty fish like salmon or omega-3 supplements that contain EPA and DHA.”