Ask the Cardiologist: Can Eating Fish Prevent Heart Disease?

MalinskiDr. Maciej Malinski is on the medical staff at Sherman Hospital. He has been kind enough to answer some frequently asked questions related to maintaining a healthy heart. Look for additional heart information from Dr. Malinski in the coming weeks.

Q: I understand fish proves to be beneficial for heart health. Is all fish good for your heart or are there certain fish that provide the biggest benefit?

A: A large body of literature suggests that higher intakes of polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. This group of fatty acids includes fish oils: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The consumption of 2 servings (8 ounces) per week of fish high in EPA and DHA is associated with a reduced risk of both sudden death and death from coronary artery disease in adults. However, this reduced risk of coronary art disease doesn’t mean much if the fish is prepared incorrectly. Here are some tips:

  • Stay away from cooking methods that call for the use of cream sauces or hydrogenated fat (butter, margarine or lard). Methods used to prepare fish should minimize the addition of saturated and trans fatty acids, as occurs with the use of cream sauces or butter, margarine or lard during frying.
  • Contamination of certain fish with mercury and other organic compounds is also a potential concern. Children and pregnant women are advised by the Food and Drug Administration to avoid eating fish with the potential for the highest level of mercury contamination (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish, for example)
  • Eat up to 12 ounces (2 average meals) per week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are lower in mercury (canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, catfish) and check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers and coastal areas.
  • Potential exposure to some contaminants can be reduced by removing the skin and surface fat from fish before cooking.
  • For middle-aged or older men and postmenopausal women, the benefits of fish consumption far outweigh the potential risks when amounts of fish are eaten within the recommendations established by the FDA. The fish vary in their content of fish oils not only by type of fish but also depending where the fish came from.

My simple advice is to have 2 servings (8 ounces) per week of any fish, and this should provide sufficient fish oil intake to prevent heart disease.

Do you have a question for Dr. Malinski? To submit your question, either post it in the comments section below or email with the subject line “Question for Dr. Malinski.” For more information on heart health, click here to visit Sherman’s Heart and Vascular Center.

This post is published by Sherman Health to provide general health information. It is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from your physician.

About Sherman Health

Sherman Health has provided medical care to Northern IL since 1888, and is currently home to a network of over 600 physicians. The Sherman blogs are edited by me, Luke. Questions? Comments? Links? Email address is luke at shermanhealth dot com.
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2 Responses to Ask the Cardiologist: Can Eating Fish Prevent Heart Disease?

  1. Colleen says:

    I was recently diagnosed as having severe atheroma in my aorta and descending coronary artery-what can be done about this? I’ve had 2 tia’s and feel like I’m a walking time bomb-help!

  2. Pingback: Get to know our award-winning blog series, Ask the Cardiologist! « Sherman Heart & Vascular Blog

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