Sudden Death & Omega-3s
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | June 25, 2002

The Center for Disease Control recently reported on the rate of sudden cardiac death in the United States. Of the nearly 730,000 people who died from cardiac disease in 1999, almost 463,000 died suddenly--almost two-thirds (1). One statistic stuck out: if you're 35 to 44 years old, man or woman, you have a 75% chance of sudden death if you have a heart attack. About the same time this report was released, three studies were published that revealed how sudden death from cardiac disease may be reduced. The possible solution? Omega-3 fatty acids.

The relationship between eating cold-water ocean fish and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is well established. These three studies are important because they demonstrate that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of sudden death if you have a heart attack.

In the ongoing Physicians Health Study, researchers found an inverse relationship between sudden death and the quantity of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood (2). The lower the levels, the higher the risk of dying suddenly. The authors concluded that if research establishes cause and effect between eating omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding sudden death, eating more fish or taking fish oil supplements may be a low-cost and low-risk intervention to reduce sudden death from heart disease.

Researchers examined the relationship between fish consumption and coronary heart disease (CHD) in women in the ongoing Nurses' Health Study (3). Fish consumption was inversely related to CHD and sudden death in women. A woman's risk of heart disease can be cut by 33% with regular consumption of cold-water fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids.

Researchers in the ongoing GISSI Study of over 11,000 subjects recently reported that consumption of as little as one gram of omega-3 fatty acids in a food supplement every day is also associated with a reduction in the risk of sudden death (4).

These studies suggest that adding fish--cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel--to your diet several times per week may help reduce your risk of sudden death from CHD. Further, if you won't eat fish, take a food supplement containing purified fish oil made by a reliable manufacturer--aim for a total of 2-3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids every day.

But that's not all. A healthy heart needs more than omega-3 fatty acids. Keep in mind that you should:

  • Eat 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Take a multivitamin-multimineral with folic acid, natural vitamin E, and vitamin C.
  • Don't use any form of tobacco.
  • Keep stress under control.
  • Drink one-half your body weight in ounces of water per day.
Optimal health comes from an optimal lifestyle. Better Life Unlimited is here to help you attain that.


  1. Center for Disease Control. State-specific mortality from sudden cardiac death--United States, 1999. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2002. 51(6):123-6.
  2. Albert CM., et al. Blood Levels of Long-Chain n-3 Fatty Acids and the Risk of Sudden Death. New England Journal of Medicine 2002. 346:1113-8.
  3. Hu, FB., et al. Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women. JAMA 2002. 287:1815-1821.
  4. Roberto Marchioli, MD., et al. Early Protection Against Sudden Death by n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids After Myocardial Infarction. Circulation. 2002. 105:1897-1903.
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