Preventing Sudden Death with n-3 (Omega-3) Fatty Acids and Defibrillators

Thomas E. Kottke, Lambert A. Wu, Lee N. Brekke, Mark J. Brekke, Roger D. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Because interventions that prevent and treat events due to cardiovascular disease are applied to different, but overlapping, segments of the population, it can be difficult to estimate their effectiveness if formal calculations are not available. Methods: Markov chain analysis, including sensitivity analysis, was used with a hypothetical population resembling that of Olmsted County, MN, aged 30 to 84 in the year 2000 to compare the estimated impact of three interventions to prevent sudden death: (1) raising blood levels of n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids, (2) distributing automated external defibrillators (AEDs), and (3) implanting cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) in appropriate candidates. The analysis was performed in 2004, 2005, and 2006. Results: Raising median n-3 fatty acid levels would be expected to lower total mortality by 6.4% (range from sensitivity analysis=1.6% to 10.3%). Distributing AEDs would be expected to lower total mortality by 0.8% (0.2% to 1.3%), and implanting ICDs would be expected to lower total mortality by 3.3% (0.6% to 8.7%). Three fourths of the reduction in total mortality due to n-3 fatty acid augmentation would accrue from raising n-3 fatty acid levels in the healthy population. Conclusions: Based on central values of candidacy and efficacy, raising n-3 fatty acid levels would have about eight times the impact of distributing AEDs and two times the impact of implanting ICDs. Raising n-3 fatty acid levels would also reduce rates of sudden death among the subpopulation that does not qualify for ICDs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)316-323.e8
JournalAmerican journal of preventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was made possible through a Cooperative Agreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine (ATPM) (award TS-0892). Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the CDC or ATPM. The roles of the CDC and ATPM were limited exclusively to funding the project. (Note: ATPM is now APTR, the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research.)


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