The role of DHA & EPA through the lifecycle: Elderly

6 December 2018


Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are forms of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water, fatty fish (like salmon, tuna, herring, shellfish, mackerel, and sardines), seaweed, and fish-oil supplements. Our bodies make small amounts of DHA on their own, but we require additional intake from our diet and supplements to meet our body’s needs.

Both DHA and EPA play vital roles in establishing and maintaining our health. DHA is required in high levels in the brain and retina to provide optimal neuron function and visual acuity throughout all ages of our lives.

DHA has been linked to promoting a healthy cardiovascular system by decreasing hypertension and high cholesterol, two things that contribute to heart attacks and stroke. DHA has also been shown to help fight inflammation and prevent type 2 diabetes.[1] For these reasons, DHA remains a crucial part of our diet as we age and our risk for chronic illnesses increases.


As we age the health benefits of DHA are equally important as when we are infants, but the reasons shift slightly. When we are young DHA is crucial for brain development and retina development. As we mature and grow older, we are no longer in that critical developmental stage, however, DHA (and omega-3 fatty acids) remain crucial in the maintenance and continued health of our brain and vision.

DHA plays a large role in boosting mental cognition, working to combat early-onset dementia, and fighting depression: all things related to our mental health. DHA also continues to improve our visual acuity, helping to prevent macular degeneration. Additionally, DHA has also been linked to fighting inflammation that can contribute to arthritis and arthritis pain.[2] Adults 65 and above should aim to eat fatty fish at least 3 times a week, and include a supplement as recommended by your physician.

  1. [1] Health Benefits of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA). Horrocks, LA, Yeo, YK. Pharmacological Research Journal. 1999. Accessed on 12/20/2017.
  2. [2] “Fish Oil.”,
Tags: adult, brain, DHA, elderly, oily fish, omega-3, omega-3 fatty acids, recommendations, seafood, senior


Brigitte Zeitlin

Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian-nutritionist and owner of BZ Nutrition, a private nutrition counseling practice. She has been featured in Us Weekly, Women’s Health, SELF, and Well+Good. Become a client and work with Brigitte by visiting

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