NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a new study of some 3,000 older adults, those with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood were 30 percent less likely to develop an irregular heartbeat over the next 14 years than peers with the lowest blood levels of omega-3s.
"A 30 percent lower risk of the most common chronic arrhythmia in the United States population is a pretty big effect," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the new report and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
According to some estimates, up to nine percent of Americans will develop atrial fibrillation, a heart-rhythm abnormality that can lead to stroke and heart failure, by the time they reach their 80s.
There are few treatments for the condition and they largely center on preventing strokes with blood-thinning drugs.
Some previous studies have suggested that people who eat a lot of fish have a lower risk of developing atrial fibrillation to begin with. But others haven't found the same link.