Stroke is one of the leading causes of death among Americans. There are two types of strokes, ischemic and hemorrhagic, with ischemic being the most common. Ischemic strokes occur when a clot or plaque in a blood vessel blocks the flow of blood to the brain. As you might expect, this can have catastrophic consequences. Restoring blood flow quickly gives a stroke victim the best chance of surviving the stroke without brain damage. Now, a new study shows that DHA, and omega-3 fatty acid, could be an effective ischemic stroke treatment.
Fish Oil DHA: A New Stroke Treatment?
Researchers cut off blood flow to the brains of anesthetized rats in a manner similar to what a stroke would do. Then they gave the rats different doses of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil. When they evaluated them neurologically a week later, they found rats that received low and medium doses of DHA within three hours of their “stroke” had less tissue damage and better neurological outcomes.
The Health Benefits of DHA
DHA is an omega-3 fatty found in fish oils from fatty fish. Omega-3s have become popular has a supplement because of their beneficial effects on the heart. Some studies show that omega-3 fatty acids lower triglyceride levels reduce the risk of clot formation and decrease inflammation – all of which are favorable for the heart. No wonder more people are taking fish oil supplements these days.
Can Fish Oil DHA Prevent Ischemic Stroke?
There some evidence that omega-3’s not only offsets damage after a stroke but may reduce the risk of having one too. According to a study published in JAMA, women who consumed more omega-3s had a reduced risk of ischemic stroke. It may also lessen memory loss in older people due to “silent” strokes that don’t cause obvious symptoms.
A New Stroke Treatment: The Bottom Line?
It’s unlikely that fish oil DHA will replace thrombolytic agents to treat stroke anytime soon, but this ischemic stroke treatment does have potential. In the meantime, add more omega-3s to your diet by eating fatty fish that are low in mercury, or ask your doctor about taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, especially if you’re at high risk for stroke or heart disease. It could reduce your risk of having a fatal stroke or heart attack.
JAMA. 2001 Jan 17;285(3):304-12.
Stroke. “Robust Docosahexaenoic Acid'”Mediated Neuroprotection in a Rat Model of Transient, Focal Cerebral Ischemia “