Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Comparing the Omega-3 Index with Traditional Heart Disease Risk Factors

Move over cholesterol, the Omega-3 Index is the latest addition to our toolkit of risk factors or heart disease risk to help manage heart health.  The Omega 3 Index has been shown to be a more significant predictor of risk of heart disease than traditional heart risk factors including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and CRP.  All risk factor factors for heart disease, including the Omega 3 Index, should be addressed as an overall heart health risk reduction strategy.  That’s right, don’t throw out your home cholesterol test or stop managing your high cholesterol, but read on and seriously consider adding a home Omega 3 Test to your heart health toolkit as a very important risk factor for heart disease.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease – Likelihood of Dying from a Sudden Heart Attack

Sudden cardiac death, or dying suddenly from a heart attack, is responsible for about half of all deaths associated with coronary heart disease (1).  The chart below summarizes relative risk of sudden cardiac death associated with traditional risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol and others. For each of the heart risk factors, the bar on the left represents the quartile at highest risk, and is set at a relative risk of 1.0. And for each of the risk factors for heart disease, the bar on the right represents the quartile with the lowest relative risk.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Omega 3 Index vs. Cholesterol

In these studies, those with the highest levels of Omega 3 Index have a 90% reduction in risk of sudden cardiac death compared to those with the lowest Omega-3 Index. Compared to other risk factors for heart disease including high cholesterol, this predictive value for was far greater.  For example the predictive value associated with other key heart risk factors are as follows:  C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation)  was a 65% reduction in risk with the lowest CRP, and the predictive value of high cholesterol levels was a 35% reduction in risk with the lowest total cholesterol (2).  Neither comes close to the 90% reduction in risk associated with a high Omega 3 Index.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease Comparison Study

Click here for a full copy of the study, which showed that after controlling for age and smoking status, only two risk factors for heart disease demonstrated significant relations with risk for sudden cardiac death, the Omega-3 Index and CRP (3).

The multivariable-adjusted relative risk for sudden cardiac death by quartile of the Omega-3 Index compared with other, more traditional circulating heart risk factors. The quartiles at presumed highest risk (black bars) are set at a relative risk of 1.0. Each subsequent lighter bar represents the risk at each decreasing (or, for HDL and omega-3 index, increasing) quartile. CRP, C-reactive protein; Hcy, homocysteine; TC, total cholesterol; Tg, triglycerides. Source: Physician’s Health Study.

Omega-3 Index and Cholesterol as Independent Risk Factors for Heart Disease

These studies also indicate the Omega-3 Index may be an independent risk factor for heart disease, which means it is not influenced by other heart risk factors like high cholesterol or blood pressure.  All risk factors for heart disease, including the Omega-3 Index, should be addressed as an overall heart disease risk reduction strategy.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Omega 3 Index vs. Home Cholesterol Test

So, don’t throw out your home cholesterol test just yet.  Both the Omega 3 Index and High Cholesterol appear to be independent risk factors for heart disease.  That means that you might have a low risk score on one, and a very high risk score on the other.  In fact, we’ve heard from many individuals that proactively managed their diets to avoid high cholesterol (but not their omega 3 levels) that they were surprised by their poor Omega 3 Index scores from our Omega 3 Index Home Blood Test.  Learning their Omega 3 scores provided them with new personal information to make smart choices about their diet to reduce another one of their important heart risk factors – the Omega 3 Index.  So, we recommend you keep your home cholesterol test and avoid high cholesterol, and add the Omega 3 Index home blood test to empower yourself with personal information to proactively manage your Omega 3 levels.



(1) Zheng ZJ, Croft JB, Giles WH, Mensah GA. Sudden cardiac death in the United States, 1989 to 1998. Circulation 2001;104:2158–63.

(2) Albert CM, Ma J, Rifai N, Stampfer MJ, Ridker PM. Prospective study of C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and plasma lipid levels as predictors of sudden cardiac death. Circulation 2002;105:2595–9

(3) Albert CM, Campos H, Stampfer MJ, et al. Blood levels of long-chain n–3 fatty acids and the risk of sudden death. N Engl J Med 2002;346:1113–8.

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