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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Brain Health

Examine the functional role of nutritional supplementation of Omega-3 in promoting good brain function. Use recovery from stroke to illustrate your argument.

The health of the brain is important because it is made up of 60% fat and this makes Omega-3 vital. The forms of omega 3 that are important to the brain include Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and they are responsible for the maintenance of normal brain function. The main role of these omega-3 fats is to build cell membranes and promote the formation of new cells. Studies have indicated a link between the imbalance of omega 3 in diet and brain performance and cognitive diseases. Due to the brain containing more than 100 billion cells and omega-3 fatty acids forming the building blocks of these cells, they are, therefore, essential in brain functioning (Saber et al., 2017). Not only do omega-3 fatty acids give the brain protective powers after an individual has suffered from a stroke but also helps in brain function, joint pain, and stiffness which are important to stroke survivors.


Stroke, also known as brain attack occurs when the circulation of blood to the brain fails and this causes the brain cells to die to a lack of oxygen. Two general categories of stroke exist and these include ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. Most of the strokes are ischemic, which account for almost 80%, while the rest are hemorrhagic (Zhang et al., 2015). Ischemic stroke is caused by blood clot in the in the brain or neck while hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain.

The most important forms of omega-3s that help in brain function are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) as well as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is important in brain function in that it helps in the functioning and development of the brain. The older an individual gets, the more DHA protects the brain by helping protect it against cognitive diseases and other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, EPA is important as an anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is dangerous as it is responsible for damaging blood vessels that have dangerous repercussions such as heart diseases, strokes, and heart attacks. However, Omega-3s fatty acids especially the EPA prevents the inflammation that leads to these diseases. Research studies have found out that individuals that take a diet rich in omega-3s have a low chance of suffering from cardiovascular risk factors such as irregular heartbeat, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and bad cholesterol (Narendran, Frankle, Mason, Muldoon & Moghaddam, 2012). In addition to being an anti-inflammatory compound, EPA is also an anti-clotting compound that reduces blood stickiness just before the clots form that can lead to stroke.

Types of Stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic


In terms of the prevention of strokes, omega-3 is also essential in preventing the occurrence of brain attacks. According to one study that looked into the blood levels of omega-3s and the risk of ischemic stroke as a result of thrombosis and embolism, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids were inversely related to stroke that occurred as a result of thrombosis (Chowdhury et al., 2012). Also, the individuals that eat at least two servings of fish each week had the greatest protection from stroke as compared to those that did not eat at all. These instances reveal the importance of omega-3 in the prevention of people from suffering from a stroke.

Even though an individual has suffered from a stroke, omega-3 plays a crucial role in its recovery. The recovery may either be from a short-term or long-term stroke. It depends on the amount of omega-3 that an individual takes in their diet. In another research conducted by scientists on the influence of omega 3 on a rat, an omega-3 DHA given within 5 hours had tremendous neuroprotective effects that ensured speedy recovery of the rat from stroke (Zhang, Hu, Yang, Gao & Chen, 2010).

Omega-3 is also essential in decreasing the effects that come as a result of aging. After the age of 40 years, the volume of the brain decreases by about 5% after every 10 years with the region known as the hippocampus affected the most. Since this region of the brain is usually responsible for encoding memories, this explains the reason why most people after the age of 40 years become forgetful. However, individuals that take diets rich in omega-3 do not suffer from such effects as these types of fatty acids reduce cognitive decline (Iso, 2001). Further, these types of fatty acids ensure that brain function is at the optimum and whoever takes them more becomes active for a long time.


Omega-3 also helps in the reduction of high blood pressure in the brain that may lead to stroke. When there is high pressure in the brain due to stress and other related effects, the arteries in the brain may burst and this can be dangerous to an individual as it can lead to hemorrhagic stroke (Belayev et al., 2010). however, with the intake of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the chance of high blood pressure in the brain is reduced and therefore, reducing the effect that the pressure can have. In this way, Omega-3 prevents the occurrence of stroke. In addition to preventing the stroke from occurring, these omega-3 fatty acids can also be helpful in helping an individual recover from a stroke. Moreover, these fatty acids cause revascularization and angiogenesis, which are important in tissue healing and development, are improved (Narendran, Frankle, Mason, Muldoon & Moghaddam, 2012). Furthermore, newborn neurons are protected to survive after stroke injury by these fatty acids further highlighting their importance to the functioning and development of the brain.

EPA and DHA: Important Omega-3 Fats for Brain Function

Traumatic brain injuries also lead to the number of deaths in children and adults below the age of 44. These injuries are most of the time caused by being in the military or playing sports among other factors. Even if a fall while running cannot be fatal, it can lead to far-reaching consequences such as permanent brain damage and an impairment to a person’s memory. Other effects include a decrease in a person’s learning ability as well as reduced motor coordination (Dries, 2008). However, with omega-3, individuals who suffer from these injuries have high chances of getting better especially if the fatty acids are administered shortly after the injury. Studies have shown that when DHA is administered two hours after brain injury, then the neurological functions and the survival of nerve cells is possible. Further, oxidative stress is reduced greatly.


After surgery, omega-3 can also be effective in improving cell function. DHA, one of the forms of omega-3 is responsible for promoting cell survival as well as function. In a study conducted in Sweden, the molecules that are found in omega-3 fatty acids are responsible for improving the functioning of the cell if they are administered 24 hours after surgery (Grundy, Toben, Jaehne, Corrigan & Baune, 2014). Moreover, it is worth noting that EPA and DHA are not the only molecules associated with omega-3 fatty acids that help in brain function, there are other molecules in the omega-3 family that work together in synergy to improve brain function.

Overall, omega-3 is an important component of the brain as it improves brain function and development. These fatty acids that come mainly from fish and cod liver oil should be incorporated in an individual’s diet at least 2 times per work so that these individuals can benefit from their advantages. A stroke is one of the most dangerous diseases related to the brain, omega-3 should be taken regularly to regulate this form of brain attack. The fatty acids prevent the blood clots in the brain that lead to an ischemic stroke which affects nearly 80% of all stroke cases. In addition, it also prevents the high blood pressure that may form in the brain that leads to the bursting of arteries leading to hemorrhagic stroke and which affects nearly 20% of all stroke cases

References

Belayev, L., Khoutorova, L., Atkins, K., Eady, T., Hong, S., & Lu, Y. et al. (2010). Docosahexaenoic Acid Therapy of Experimental Ischemic Stroke. Translational Stroke Research, 2(1), 33-41. doi: 10.1007/s12975-010-0046-0

Chowdhury, R., Stevens, S., Gorman, D., Pan, A., Warnakula, S., & Chowdhury, S. et al. (2012). Association between fish consumption, long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ, 345(oct30 3), e6698-e6698. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e6698

Dries, D. (2008). Timing of Surgery after Multisystem Injury with Traumatic Brain Injury: Effect on Neuropsychological and Functional Outcome. Yearbook of Critical Care Medicine, 2008, 279-281. doi: 10.1016/s0734-3299(08)70620-8

Grundy, T., Toben, C., Jaehne, E., Corrigan, F., & Baune, B. (2014). Long-term omega-3 supplementation modulates behavior, hippocampal fatty acid concentration, neuronal progenitor proliferation and central TNF-α expression in 7 month old unchallenged mice. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 8. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00399

Iso, H. (2001). Intake of Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Risk of Stroke in Women. JAMA, 285(3), 304. doi: 10.1001/jama.285.3.304

Narendran, R., Frankle, W., Mason, N., Muldoon, M., & Moghaddam, B. (2012). Improved Working Memory but No Effect on Striatal Vesicular Monoamine Transporter Type 2 after Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation. Plos ONE, 7(10), e46832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046832

Narendran, R., Frankle, W., Mason, N., Muldoon, M., & Moghaddam, B. (2012). Improved Working Memory but No Effect on Striatal Vesicular Monoamine Transporter Type 2 after Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation. Plos ONE, 7(10), e46832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046832

Saber, H., Yakoob, M., Shi, P., Longstreth, W., Lemaitre, R., & Siscovick, D. et al. (2017). Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Incident Ischemic Stroke and Its Atherothrombotic and Cardioembolic Subtypes in 3 US Cohorts. Stroke, 48(10), 2678-2685. doi: 10.1161/strokeaha.117.018235

Zhang, W., Hu, X., Yang, W., Gao, Y., & Chen, J. (2010). Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Supplementation Confers Long-Term Neuroprotection against Neonatal Hypoxic-Ischemic Brain Injury through Anti-Inflammatory Actions. Stroke, 41(10), 2341-2347. doi: 10.1161/strokeaha.110.586081

Zhang, W., Wang, H., Zhang, H., Leak, R., Shi, Y., & Hu, X. et al. (2015). Dietary supplementation with omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids robustly promotes neurovascular restorative dynamics and improves neurological functions after stroke. Experimental Neurology, 272, 170-180. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2015.03.005

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