Take this Supplement to Heal Your Heart
The internet is loaded with advice about heart attacks. You’ll find hundreds of thousands of articles on how to survive a heart attack. Millions on how to prevent one. Dozens of millions on recognizing the symptoms. What you won’t find nearly so much of is advice on healing after you’ve already had one. And while knowing how to recognize a heart attack and what to do while you’re having one may save your life, what you do post heart attack will affect your quality of life for the rest of your life.
That’s what I want to talk about today
Here’s what actually happens when you have a heart attack
When you have a heart attack, blood flow to part of your heart is cut off. This means oxygen is also cut off. The oxygen-starved heart muscle begins to die.
How serious the heart attack is depends on how much of your heart is deprived of oxygen and for how long. Once blood flow is restored no new cell death occurs. Shortly after this your heart begins doing what it can to heal itself. This usually means creating scar tissue. The damaged muscle can’t be regenerated—all your heart can do is slowly replace the dead—yes, dead--muscle with scar tissue.
Scar tissue is different than muscle. And it’s even more different from cardiac—that is, heart—muscle than it is from skeletal muscle. All muscle cells are elastic. But cardiac muscle cells also conduct electricity, and each individual cell beats just like a whole heart. When all the cells are electrically joined they beat in rhythm, making the heart contract and relax.
Scar tissue is not elastic. It isn’t made of muscle. Instead it’s made of stiff, inflexible collagen fibers. It isn’t electric like heart muscle. And it’s too inflexible to “beat” like the rest of the heart even if it were. This means that the more scar tissue you have, the harder your heart has to work in order pump the same amount of blood. Its one reason that an irregular heartbeat and even heart failure are so common in people who have survived a heart attack.
So it stands to reason that anything that could reduce the amount of scar tissue that forms—technically called “fibrosis”—would lessen the severity of post-heart attack complications. And a recent study published in the journal Circulation just validated what many of us in the “alternative” healthcare field have been saying for years: a common supplement can make a life changing difference after a heart attack. It can reduce the amount of scarring. It can improve how well your heart works. It can reduce the stress on your heart as it pumps.
And most of all, it can cut your odds of having heart failure or dying further on down the line.
You probably already have this in your medicine chest
The supplement I’m talking about is fish oil. Specificially, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil.
This study involved people who had recently had a heart attack. The participants were split into two groups—one taking a high dose of omega-3s and one taking a placebo. Both groups took the supplement or placebo in addition to regular meds. And the researchers didn’t rely on self-reporting—study participants had regular blood testing to verify that they were actually using the fish oil and not just saying they did.
At the beginning of the study the participants had their hearts examined using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, which allowed the researchers to see just where and how much damage had occurred. After six months all had cardiac MRI again to see how much scarring had occurred.
The group taking fish oil had significantly less scarring—5.6% less on average. Their hearts also pumped more efficiently. And the omega-3 group also had less inflammation, both in their hearts and blood vessels and system-wide. Not surprisingly, those with the highest blood levels of omega-3s had the least amount of scarring.
And that leads me to something the study authors don’t discuss: In the real world, the outcome might be even better. Here’s why.
The treatment group got their omega-3s by taking 4 grams of fish oil per day. But it wasn’t just any old fish oil. It wasn’t the stuff you’d walk into your local health food store and buy. Of course not. Big Medicine couldn’t be seen using something as simple as a dietary supplement. Instead they used Lovaza, the “prescription fish oil.” This is a semi-synthetic form of omega-3s which has been altered in the lab so Big Pharma can patent it and horn in on the supplement market.
Don’t be fooled. You don’t need a prescription
Big Pharma rushed to get this “drug” on the market once it became clear just how many uses omega-3s have. So far, it hasn’t been terribly successful—at $100 and up for a bottle of fish oil pills that’s not surprising. I’m sure they’re hoping that this study will generate a little buzz for the product and encourage doctors to prescribe it. But here’s the thing: Lovaza just isn’t absorbed by the body as well as natural fish oil.
Considering that the people with the highest blood levels of omega-3s had the most healing, this could mean that the study might actually be understating the benefit of omega-3s after a heart attack. Since natural forms of fish oil are more readily absorbed, they’re likely to be more beneficial than the “prescription” version.
Of course I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for someone to do a study comparing them. It’s a pretty sure bet that when Big Pharma patents a natural substance it’s going to be second best to nature. And it’s also a pretty good bet that no one is in mainstream medicine is going to study this.
Here’s all you need to know: the people in the study took 4 grams of Lovaza per day. Each gram contains 465 mg of the omega-3 EPA and 375 mg of DHA.
A good fish oil supplement may contain slightly less than this, but not far less. It might mean you need to take an extra capsule per day—read labelsl and find the supplement which comes closest in its EPA to DHA ratio. However, there have been no documented side effects from taking too much fish oil so taking more than this really isn’t a concern.
So here’s the bottom line: If you’ve suffered a heart attack, fish oil can help reduce the damage left behind. And you don’t need a pricey prescription. Instead invest in a high-quality fish oil supplement from a reputable supplier. You may need to take more capsules—but your body will get more good out of them.
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