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How Fish and Fish Oil May Stop Traveling Blood Clots

fish and fish oil

It appears that consuming fish and fish supplements may stop blood clots that travel. In other words, fish and omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Venous thromboembolism is a disease that includes two potentially deadly disorders—deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Both of these conditions are more common than many people believe.

In fact, venous thromboembolism is the third most common illness of the cardiovascular system, following acute coronary syndrome and stroke. According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 1 million cases of VTE occur in the United States each year.

How can you help prevent these potentially deadly problems? New research indicates that eating fish and taking fish oil supplements (omega-3 fatty acids) are a positive step. Data in were evaluated from the Tromso Study from 1994 to 1995, which included more than 23,600 people aged 25 to 97.

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During a mean follow-up of 15.8 years, the reviewers found 536 incidents of venous thromboembolism. Analysis of the data showed:

  • High intake of fish was associated with a slightly lower risk of experiencing venous thromboembolism; that is, those who ate fish at least three times a week had a 22 percent lower risk than those who ate fish once to less than twice a week
  • Participants who ate fish at least three times a week plus took fish oil supplements bettered their lowered risk to 48 percent

Therefore, if you eat fish and take fish oil supplements, you may significantly reduce your risk of experiencing venous thromboembolism. Keep this in mind while considering whether you have any of the risk factors for VTE, which include:

  • Being hospitalized (nearly 66 percent of all VTE cases result from hospitalization for surgeries such as hip fracture, knee/hip replacement, major general surgery, spinal cord injury)
  • Age older than 75
  • Cancer, chemotherapy
  • History of VTE
  • Paralysis or recent immobilization of the lower extremities
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Respiratory failure
  • Pregnancy
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Varicose veins
  • Morbid obesity

If you have any of the risk factors for venous thromboembolism, talk to your healthcare provider. You also may want to consider making fish and fish oil a regular part of your dietary plan. For vegetarians, vegans, and others who choose to avoid fish and fish oil supplements, intake of plant-sourced omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid and seaweed sources of DHA) may be an option.

Cleveland Clinic
Hansen-Krone IJ et al. High fish plus fish oil intake is associated with slightly reduced risk of venous thromboembolism: the Tromso Study. Journal of Nutrition 2014 Jun 1; 144(6): 861-67

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