One way to reduce inflammation is to “change the patient’s oil”. There is a large body of research showing that omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. There is a good reason to choose omega-3 fatty acids over pain medication—blood pressure.

According to research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (October 28, 2002;162:2204-2208), frequent use of pain-relief medications may result in an increased-risk of high blood pressure in women. These drugs are known as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Use of acetaminophen (eg Tylenol) was also monitored in this study. Acetaminophen is not an NSAID, it addresses pain, but not inflammation.

NSAIDs work by blocking hormone-like substances known as prostaglandins, some of which cause inflammation. Prostaglandins also dilate blood vessels. If they are chemically blocked by NSAIDs, blood vessels may narrow. This can lead to hypertension.

The health of 80,000 women, all of whom did not suffer from hypertension was monitored. Frequency of the use of pain medication (including aspirin, NSAIDs and acetaminophen) was noted and compared with the number of diagnosed cases of hypertension after two years. Use of NSAIDs 22 days or more each month increased the risk of high blood pressure by about 86%. Women using acetaminophen 22 days or more each month were almost twice as likely to have high blood pressure than those who did not. Aspirin users did not experience the increased risk of high blood pressure. Researchers concluded that over use of pain medications could be responsible for a large portion of the hypertension cases in the United States.

According to a double-blind, placebo controlled study appearing in the Journal of Nutrition (2007 Apr;137(4):973-8), a small amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) can moderately reduce blood pressure. The 38 male subjects were randomized to receive either 700 mcg of DHA or a placebo each day of the three month study. The study paused for four months and the role of the subjects were reversed, with the original placebo group receiving the supplement and the original supplement group receiving the placebo. Overall, subjects taking DHA had a diastolic blood pressure that was lower by 3.3 mm Hg. Heart rate was also lower in the DHA group, by 2.1 beats per minute.

A cross-sectional epidemiological study appearing in the journal, Hypertension (2007;50:313-319) looked at blood pressure in relationship to 4,680 subjects. Blood pressure was measured eight times over four doctor visits. The researchers found an inverse relationship between omega-3 fatty acid consumption from food.

A meta-analysis of studies relating fish-oil consumption to blood pressure appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine (June 28, 1993;153:1429-1438). In 11 studies, it was found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure. Another six studies found that omega-3 fatty acids reduced blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. The greatest blood pressure reduction was in individuals with the highest blood pressure.