Fish oils recommended for heart patients

Doctors are being advised to prescribe fish oil to heart attack patients, under new health guidelines published today.

The new guidelines, issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), recommends that patients who have had a heart attack in the last three months should eat more oily fish or be prescribed the specific omega-3 supplement Omacor.

NICE said that Omacor was shown to reduce the risk of a repeat attack and reduce the patient's risk of dying by up to 45%.

The cost of supplying Omacor is expected to be around £7 million in the first year.

NICE's guidance also recommends that patients should be given advice on giving up smoking, safe drinking levels, weight management and getting physical exercise for 20 - 30 minutes a day, as well as being told to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, which is usually rich in fruit, vegetables, grains, olive oil and fish.

Responding to the guidance, Ellen Mason from the British Heart Foundation, said: "This new recommendation to prescribe fish oil supplements for the first three months after a heart attack is specifically for people who cannot tolerate eating fish. In practice, doctors are already prescribing these supplements for some heart patients."

"The BHF recommends heart attack patients should try to eat two to four portions of oily fish a week including salmon, mackerel and sardines. There are other benefits to be gained from getting omega 3 this way as the fish is full of nutrients and low in saturated fat so overall it is more nutritious to eat fish than swallowing a capsule.

"People need to be aware that this is purely for a select group of people and for most people with or without heart disease omega 3 supplements are not being suggested as a daily requirement. Fish oil supplements can adversely interact with medications including warfarin, aspirin and clopidogrel and should only be taken after discussion with your doctor."


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