Senior Health and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Nov 29th, 2010 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Senior citizens around the planet are increasingly knowledgeable about their health.  We know maintaining good health, eating well, exercising and remaining engaged in the world around us keeps us young in body, mind and spirit.  So today SCJ addresses important nutritional information that we all need to learn about… omega-3 fatty acids or OFAs as most nutritionists would say.

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats.  A very necessary nutrient.  We cannot produce these in our bodies, so we have to ingest them from food we eat or supplements we add to our diet.

The three fatty acids are EPA, DHA and ALA.  Translated, they are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).  EPA and DHA comes from fish; ALA is found in plants (walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, flaxseed/linseed oil, and olive oil).

OFAs promote cardiovascular health by 

  • reducing inflammation
  • decreasing arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats that can contribute to heart attacks),
  • lower triglyceride levels
  • reduce the growth rate of plaque on artery walls
  • lower blood pressure slightly

OFAs inflammation reduction properties suggest the possibility they may be helpful treating rheumatoid arthritis, and preventing cognitive decline and age-related macular degeneration of the eyes. Studies are currently in progress regarding these possibilities, and results have yet to be determined.  More studies are needed before omega-3s can be recommended for conditions other than those related to the heart.

So what fish do we seniors need to eat to get our OFAs?  The best sources are coldwater fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore (white) tuna, halibut, striped bass, cod, and salmon.  Nutritionists recommend you get your OFAs from fish rather than supplements, but some of us just don’t like fish.  So adding a fish oil supplement may be helpful.  Studies suggest that fish oil supplements deliver some of the same protective effects as eating fish. As always, you need to talk with your primary care physician before you add OFA supplements to your diet.



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