Should Seniors Take Fish Oil Supplements?

fish oil

Walk into any pharmacy or department store and head over to the supplements – it’s a safe bet you’ll see a huge variety of fish oil products, loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, to be taken on a daily basis. Fish oil has been an essential for good health since ancient Rome, when individuals partook of a substance called Garum, a sauce that was loaded with fish oil. This was believed to be an aphrodisiac, laxative, and cure for headaches.

Let’s fast forward to the Industrial Revolution in Britain, when cod liver oil became a common supplement. It was loaded with the vitamin D that was believed to treat rickets, a disease common among children in areas where smog blocked the sun. In 1850, the first “fish oil” supplement hit the market and had great success, although cod liver oil didn’t have the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids like today’s fish oil does.

The fish oil we are familiar with today didn’t show up on the market until the 1970s. Research into the supplement flourished as the health benefits of omega-3s became well-known. Today, fish oil supplements are a booming industry and the merits of fish oil are well-documented.

The American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fatty fish per week to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Since your body can’t create essential fatty acids naturally, getting it through diet and supplements are the only options.

Though it’s clear that a healthy diet can help anyone of any age, eating a diet high in omega-3s and taking fish oil supplements might be even more important for seniors. Of course, no new supplements should be introduced without first discussing it with your doctor, as elderly adults will want to be sure it is safe to take with their current medications and with their individual health conditions.

Why Seniors Should Take Fish Oil

There are several reasons why fish oil is good for you. It is linked to a lower risk of high cholesterol and heart disease, might fight cancer, and can reduce the symptoms of depression. Fish oil is high in not only omega-3 essential acids, but it also contains a good amount of vitamin A and vitamin D[1]. Here’s what they do for the body:

·         Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for making the hormones that regulate the function of artery walls in your body, helping your blood clot, and preventing inflammation. These acids reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack while also showing promise in alleviating the symptoms of lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, and other conditions[2]. They might also be an excellent natural remedy for osteoarthritis[3].

·         Also known as retinol, vitamin A is important to boost immunity, promote cell division, and improve or maintain good vision. The Mayo Clinic tells us vitamin A also has antioxidant properties, which means it fights free radicals – the molecules that likely play a role in heart disease, cancer, and other negative conditions in the body. Vitamin A can be especially important for those who are suffering from eye disease.

·         According to the Journal of Aging and Gerontology, vitamin D is a powerhouse for the elderly. It helps prevent cognitive decline, reduces depression, and helps prevent cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Vitamin D supplementation is a big boost for the immune system. In addition, vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher risk of falls, which can lead to serious injury. For any senior concerned about falls, a personal emergency button alarm with fall detection is a great option.

The ingredients in fish oil supplements are an excellent addition to many seniors’ health regimens. Building a healthy habit of taking a fish oil supplement every day can contribute not only to your good physical and cognitive health, but it can also improve your emotional health by giving you a sense of satisfaction that you’re doing all you can do to keep your body strong.

As you’re building healthy habits, it’s also a good idea to embark on habits that keep you safer. This means reducing clutter in your home to keep the walkways clear, thus lowering your risk of falls. Grab bars in the bathroom can save you from a dangerous slip. Excellent lighting throughout the home can help you see to better move around. And wearing a medical alert pendant or wristband can ensure that if an accident does occur, help is literally at your fingertips.

How Much Fish Oil Should Seniors Take?

Your doctor is always the best resource to determine what is right for you, because your doctor knows your full health history and medications. In general, experts recommend eating fatty fish twice per week and getting your omega-3s that way, so fish oil supplements are popular for those who don’t have the best diet or for those who need a little more protection. For better overall health, some doctors recommend up to 250 milligrams of DHA and EPA every day.

Take care not to take too much of this supplement. Large doses of fish oil might lead to nausea, heartburn, rashes, and more. It might also have a negative effect on your immune system, which defeats the purpose of taking a supplement at all.

Look for a supplement that contains both DHA and EPA. These are the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids that are found in fish and seafood and your body needs both EPA and DHA to work at its optimum capacity. 

Some fish oil is available only by prescription. Up to four grams of this is often prescribed for those who have high triglycerides, as it has been shown to reduce triglyceride levels by up to 30%[4].

Does Fish Oil Have Side Effects?

As with most dietary supplements, there are few side effects to taking fish oil capsules. As long as you don’t take more than the recommended daily amount, you probably won’t feel any side effects. However, if you do, here’s what you can expect:

·         A bad taste in your mouth or bad breath

·         Heartburn

·         Nausea

·         Gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea

·         Headaches

·         A “fishy” smell to your body

It’s important to remember that fish oil supplements are not a good idea for some people. For example, those who suffer from low blood pressure or those who are on blood thinners might see even more problems if they add fish oil to their daily regimen[5]. That’s why it’s important to discuss it with your doctor.

When you start to take any new medication or supplement, you might experience side effects that catch you by surprise. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan in place that includes a robust emergency response system. The medical alert devices, or emergency button alarms, from Alert1 can serve as your safety net if those side effects lead to an accidental fall or other serious situation. Simply press the button on your alert pendant or wristband and within seconds you will be on the line with our trained professionals, who will kindly guide you through the next steps and get you the assistance you need.

Getting Omega-3s from Food Matters Too

Though getting certain fish in your diet, such as salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, and anchovies can boost your levels of omega-3, incorporating other foods into your diet can also give you a boost of the good fatty acids. These include[6]:

·         Chia seeds

·         Flax seeds

·         Soybeans

·         Walnuts

It might seem tough to include these items in your diet, but there are ways to get it done. Chia and flax seeds can be added to smoothies, sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal, and even added to ice cream for a nice crunch. Walnuts are great toppings for the ice cream or yogurt, or you can stir them into pancakes or even eat them straight up. Soybeans are often in the form of edemame, a delightful dish that could turn into one of your favorite snacks!

Changing your diet a bit to add in more foods that include omega-3s can be beneficial enough that you can avoid taking fish oil supplements, but only your doctor can provide you with the information you need to make that decision. Always speak to your doctor before you begin any supplement, especially one that you purchase over the counter. Remember, just because it says its “natural” doesn’t mean it is safe for you, especially if there is the possibility of interaction with prescriptions drugs you might be taking. And generally, while many seniors may benefit from the supplement, some elderly adults will be advised against it depending on one’s individual health situation.

In addition to eating a healthy diet and talking with your doctor about supplements and other health concerns, keep up the good habits by doing what it takes to keep you safe. This can include using a medical alert system with fall detection for seniors. In any emergency situation, a medical alert panic button can be your saving grace, as it allows you to get help fast with a single push of a button. Choose the right one for you today and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing help can be on the way in a matter of moments.