Fish oil is considered beneficial for many health conditions, but it's only proven effective for one -- lowering triglycerides. Triglycerides and cholesterol are linked and often lowering one has an effect on the other. If you have high cholesterol, after discussing it with your doctor first, fish oil may be an option to add to other lifestyle and treatment regimens.
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Fish oil is found in fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna, and its key health-beneficial ingredient is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of essential polyunsaturated fat your body can't produce on its own. You can consume it by taking fish oil supplements or by eating fish and other foods such as walnuts and green, leafy vegetables. Much research has been done on fish oil, ranging from its effect on diabetes to attention-deficit disorder to psychosis. While it's considered possibly and likely effective for many conditions, it's only proven effective for lowering triglycerides, possibly by 20 to 50 percent.
Triglycerides and Cholesterol
High triglyceride levels go hand-in-hand with high cholesterol. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are fats, and in high numbers, both increase the risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Excessive levels of cholesterol and triglycerides circulate in the bloodstream with the potential to harden blood vessels, impede blood flow and clog vessels. Levels for LDL, called "bad" cholesterol, HDL, considered "good" cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides are all included in cholesterol testing.
The FDA has approved one specific prescription fish oil supplement called Lovaza for lowering triglycerides. It contains two important types of omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, in every 1 g capsule. One to 4 g of fish oil per day are recommended to lower triglycerides. Research cited by MedlinePlus shows that for high triglycerides and high cholesterol, taking 1,200 to 1,440 mg DHA, 1,800 to 2,160 mg EPA and 900 to 1,200 mg of garlic powder daily reduced total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. Discuss taking fish oil for cholesterol with your doctor before taking it; too much may actually cause a stroke.
Other Cholesterol Management Tips
Cholesterol management centers on lifestyle changes. If you're overweight, reducing weight will help reduce your risk for heart disease and may lower LDL and raise HDL levels. Make sure your diet is low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, and eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Routine exercise is encouraged to maintain weight and for overall health. If cholesterol medications are prescribed, take them as directed and only take fish oil after you've discussed it with your doctor.