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Heart Attack Survivors To Be Given Fish Oil Supplements


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Heart attack survivors to be given fish oil supplements

Millions of heart attack survivors will be prescribed fish oil supplements for life on the NHS in a bid to prevent further seizures.

New guidelines being drawn up for doctors recommend heart patients get a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids to reduce the risk of a second attack.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) currently advises that patients who have suffered a heart attack should eat a Mediteranean-style diet and increase their consumption of oily fish to between two and four portions a week.

However, the new guidance will say doctors should prescribe a one gram capsule of fish oil a day to heart attack survivors to prevent a second attack, at a cost to the NHS of less than £1 a day.

The move comes as an increasing number of studies have highlighted the benefits of eating oily fish or taking fish oil supplements. It has been shown to cut the risk of heart disease, help children's growth and improve performance at schools.

The panel making the latest recommendation says it is based on 'robust' research evidence, citing a study of 11,000 heart attack survivors which showed those taking fish oil supplements regularly had a lower risk of death and non-fatal heart attack and stroke.

The health service spends £1.73 billion annually caring for heart disease victims and it is thought the move would save money for the NHS in the long-term - particularly if patients took the capsules for life.

The guidance has been put out for consultation to professional bodies and heart charities and will take effect early next year.

Coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the UK accounting for 125,000 deaths each year.

Around 270,000 Britons each year have a heart attack, with up to three-quarters surviving but at higher risk of having another one.

London GP Dr Sarah Jarvis, who is also chairwoman of the International Cod Liver Omega-3 Foundation, said the guidance marks a turning point in preventing recurrent heart attack.

She said: "Fish oil omega-3 should be actively recommended and prescribed for all patients being discharged from hospital following a heart attack.

"It is much healthier and more cost effective for the NHS to recommend fish oil supplements to patients than some drugs that are widely prescribed to patients for many other conditions.

"I would hope eventually they will be prescribed not just for the thousands of new patients who survive a heart attack each year, but those who've had a heart attack in the past," she added.

Fish oil supplements are approved for prescribing on the NHS to patients after a heart attack, or who have metabolic syndrome or high triglycerides - unhealthy blood fats.

The proposals to prescribe them will bring the UK in line with some other European countries where patients are prescribed purified fish oil following numerous research studies showing the health benefits.

Dr Jarvis, who already prescribes fish oil capsules for heart patients, says few GPs currently do so despite professional guidelines showing they reduce harmful blood fats by 30 per cent.

Dr Jarvis said she agreed to chair the International Foundation because its sponsorship from the industry comes with "no strings attached".

"There is an abundance of evidence which supports the use of fish oil supplementation in heart disease and I want to make more people aware of this.

"Unfortunately 75 per cent of people don't eat fish so we need to get the message across about supplements," she added.

Dr Ray Rice, a Foundation panel member, said: "Currently every patient in cardiac care units in Italy who survives a heart attack goes home with a prescription for purified fish oil and this is the way we want things to go here.

"It is clearly recommended in international guidelines and I'm shocked we are so far behind in the UK."

Patrick Holford, founder and chief executive of the Food For The Brain Foundation charity, said it was well recognised that eating at least two oily portions of fish a week halved the risk of a second heart attack.

He said omega-3s were truly a "super food" because they were healthy fats critical to maintaining a wide range of body functions.

He said 'For far too long we have been digging our own graves with a knife and fork.

"Heart attacks will not be stopped by taking medication but by giving up the wrong foods, and the wrong kind of fats."

A spokesman for Heart UK charity said: "We have contributed to the consultation on NICE guidelines for secondary prevention of heart attack and look forward to the final version."

A spokesman for the British Heart Foundation charity said it could not comment until the final guidelines are produced.

Omega-3 fatty acids are natural polyunsaturates found in oily fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, sardines or trout - and fish oil supplements - soya bean, rape seed oil, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts.

Omega-3 fats are important throughout adult life for mental well-being but in particular help heart patients, and those with arthritis, by blocking the body's response to inflammation.

They work in several ways to reduce heart attack risk by cutting blood fats, reducing the chances of a blood clot and blocking dangerous heart rhythms that might otherwise prove fatal.

White fish is also a healthy food including cod, haddock and plaice although it contains lower levels of essential fatty acids.

Research shows regular fish eaters are 30-40 per cent more likely to survive a heart attack. Omega-3 has been shown to have huge benefits in a number of areas. It helps babies grow in the womb and aid are critical for brain, nerve and eye development.

They have also been found to help young people improve results at school and improve the concentration of children with conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD.

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