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Coronary artery atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the heart’s arteries caused by a buildup of plaque, is the single leading cause of death worldwide. It is the principal cause of coronary artery disease. A new study suggests that low levels of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are associated with increased risk of early-onset coronary artery atherosclerosis.

Coronary artery calcification (CAC) provides a reliable measure of atherosclerosis. A high CAC score is a robust indicator of a person’s 10-year cardiovascular event risk. It is more common among men than women.

The study involved 71 male and female patients (average age, 68 years) who presented with atypical angina. The participants underwent non-contrast enhanced coronary CT scans and provided blood samples for fatty acid analysis.

The CT scans revealed that 63 percent of the patients had detectable CAC scores. Of these, low blood levels of EPA and DHA were positively associated with early onset of coronary artery atherosclerosis, suggesting a protective role for omega-3 fatty acids in cardiovascular disease.

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