Longevity Institute Newsletter13-4g

Data and Illustrations Related to Newsletter13-4

n-3 Fatty Acids and Heart Rhythm
The Calcium Connection

The effect of n-3 EFAs on heart rhythm involves the movement of calcium entering and exiting the cell.

Calcium movements

Calcium enters cells through calcium entry channels embedded in the menbrane. The concentration of calcium around a cell is about 10,000 times greater than the concentration of calcium in the cell. As a consequence calcium enters a cell readily, as soon as calcium entry channels open. However, the exit of calcium from a cell demands work. Calcium can only exit a cell if pumped out by the calcium exit pumps, working againts the pressure of the high concentration of calcium at the outside of the cell.

Calcium entry

An entry of calcium activates a cascade of events resulting in increased cell's activity. In a muscle cell the entry of a few calcium atoms results in muscle contraction. . In the heart muscle cells the sequential opening of the calcium entry channels—activated by rhythmic nerve impulse, maintains the regularity of the heart contraction . It is obvious that such a system can work only if calcium is constantly pumped out of the cell. That is the task of the calcium exit pumps.

Calcium exit

Now comes the point. The efficiency of the calcium pump is closely related to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in the cell membrane.
If the omega-3s are missing, the calcium pump is sluggish. Calcium may accumulate in the cells, making the trigger of more calcium entry less efficient. In a heart cell, the contraction may become weak and irregular.
Temporary accumulations of calcium occur all the time. Each time your heart muscle has some overload of work, like in emotion, during strenuous exercise, and when an emboli reduces the circulation in the lung. A temporary accumulations of calcium is detrimental only if the calcium pump can not react fast enough to prepare the cell for the next calcium entry. This is how emotions, strenuous effort, and emboli kill people.

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