Topic Overview

Eating fish may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease. As part of a heart-healthy diet, eat at least two servings of fish each week. Oily fish, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are best for your heart. These fish include salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, and sardines.footnote 2

If you cannot eat fish, you can also get omega-3 fats from omega-3 eggs, walnuts, flax seeds, and canola oil.

Do not take fish-oil or omega-3 fatty acid supplement to lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Research has not shown that these natural health products lower risk.footnote 3

Fish as part of a heart-healthy diet

Fish is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is not just for people who have existing health problems. It is good for all healthy adults and children older than age 2. Learning heart-healthy eating habits now can help prevent problems in years to come. Eating a heart-healthy diet can help you to:

  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lower your cholesterol.
  • Reach and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Prevent or control diabetes.
  • Improve your overall health.

Heart diseases

Eating fish may help lower your risk of coronary artery disease.

In people who have heart problems, omega-3 fatty acids may help lower their risk of death.

Omega-3 fatty acids also lower the risk of sudden cardiac death and abnormal heartbeats.

Try to eat omega-3 fatty acids in foods like fish rather than taking a supplement.


Eating more than two servings of fish a week can lower your risk for stroke or TIA. Oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and herring) lowers your risk more than other types of fish.footnote 4

Fish safety

According to Health Canada, pregnant and nursing women should only eat 150 grams per month or less of fresh and frozen tuna, shark, swordfish, escolar, marlin, and orange roughy because these fish often have high mercury levels.footnote 1 But for middle-aged and older people, the protection fish offer the heart outweighs the risks of eating these fish. Eating a variety of fish may reduce the amount of mercury you eat.footnote 5, footnote 6



  1. Health Canada (2007). Health Canada's revised assessment of mercury in fish enhances protection while reflecting advice in Canada's Food Guide. Available online:
  2. American Heart Association (2006). Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006. Circulation, 114(1): 82–96. [Erratum in Circulation, 114(1): e27.]
  3. Fish oil supplements (2012). The Medical Letter on Drugs and Therapies, 54 (1401): 83–84.
  4. Chowdhury R, et al. (2012). Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. Published online October 30, 2012 (doi:10.1136/bmj.e6698).
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2004). What you need to know about mercury in fish and shellfish: 2004 EPA and FDA advice for women who might become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, young children. Available online:
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011). Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colleen O'Connor, PhD, RD - Registered Dietitian

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015