The simplest way to slash your risk of heart attack in half (or more)

By now, I'm sure you're well aware of the health benefits of eating fish. I hesitate to bring it up again, since you've been beaten over the head with it so many times by the media. Studies show remarkable results in heart attack and sudden death prevention from eating fish and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Boston doctors reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that men with a history of heart disease were 81 percent less likely to experience sudden death when they had high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood "regardless of their age or smoking habits." (Please note that smoking habits played no part in the results. I make a point of it here just to get you used to it, since occasionally I will be referring to the amazing American anti-tobacco campaign and the scientific evidence that a certain amount of tobacco smoke is actually good for you. I have to take any opportunity I get to point this out, because most of you aren't going to be easy to convince.)

But back to the subject at hand-fish and your heart.

Lead researcher Dr. Christine Albert and her colleagues didn't rely on diet confessions of patients, which, as I have pointed out to you before in these pages, are unreliable to the point of being downright asinine. People don't remember what they ate yesterday, much less last month. And besides, wouldn't you rather tell the doctor what he wants to hear anyway? The team of researchers collected its data by analyzing blood samples taken from 94 men who died suddenly from heart disease and 184 healthy men "matched for age and smoking."

The men were put into one of four categories, called quartiles. Each quartile corresponded to the level of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. The first quartile was very low in omega-3 fatty acids; the second quartile was higher in omega-3s, etc. The researchers found that the men in the second-lowest quartile had a 45 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death compared with those in the lowest quartile, and those in the second highest quartile had a 72 percent lower risk of death. So the results show that the risk of sudden death increases as the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood decreases. Those are convincing figures, based on cold, hard numbers, not "patient interviews" done by phone or e-mail.

Another study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was conducted on the opposite sex. In this report, women who consumed at least five servings of fish a week lowered their risk of coronary heart disease by more than one-third and cut their risk of fatal heart attack in half over a 16-year period.

Action to take:

Eat fish twice a week-especially mackerel and salmon. If you don't like fish, you can buy omega-3 fatty acid supplements from any health food store.