New test could help Australians self-manage heart health

A recently developed pharmacy tool that Australians can use to monitor their Omega-3 intake may also help to reduce their risk of coronary heart disease

The Omega-3 Index Test is a self-administered finger-prick blood test that can now be offered in pharmacies. 

“This test is a cost-effective marker of an individual’s Omega-3 status and should become the clinical standard in healthcare,” explains cardiologist Dr Ross Walker.

“It provides an excellent opportunity for community pharmacy professionals to help improve the heart health of their patients.”

According to research, the incidence of sudden cardiac death may be reduced by up to 90% in individuals with a high Omega-3 Index, says Dr Walker.

But a global study found that Australians generally have low levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

Regions with high blood levels were found in distinct regions with countries on the Sea of Japan, Scandinavia, and regions with indigenous populations or populations that are not fully adapted to industrial based or “Western pattern” diets (Northern Russia, Alaska, Greenland, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Nigeria, and the St. Helena Bay region of South Africa).

Meanwhile, blood levels classified as “very low” in omega-3s were observed in North America, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa.

“Patients can’t do anything about some of the risk factors for heart disease, like family history or age, but they can take action on their Omega-3 Index, get supplements at the pharmacy and test again to track their progress over time,” says Dr Walker.

While supplements are an option, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in oily fish (e.g. salmon, canned sardines, trout, mackerel) and other seafood (e.g. oysters, squid, baby octopus, mussels).

According to NPS MedicineWise, most adult women and men would achieve the NHMRC recommended targets for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids if they ate two 150 g serves of oily fish each week.

Green vegetables, nuts and omega-3 enriched foods can also help people reach their recommended daily intake. However, people who are unable or choose not to eat fish or meat may find it difficult to achieve and may require supplements, says NPS MedicineWise.

“Now that we have a validated test for Omega-3 levels, we should be using it to help reduce cardiovascular risk and promote wellness,” says Dr Walker, who has published seven bestselling books on preventative cardiology.

He will be presenting an educational session on the finger prick test and the role of Omega-3 supplements at the APP conference on the Gold Coast in March.

The RRP of the Omega-3 Index Test is $70 AUD incl. GST, although some sites administering the tests have discounted the cost of the test.

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