Beat metabolic syndrome and diabetes at the same time

Docs treat metabolic syndrome as an invitation to medication. If you've been diagnosed with the condition yourself, you already know what I'm talking about.

They prescribe so many pills you can't even keep track.

But the dirty secret of mainstream medicine is that most of those meds -- including blood pressure meds, statins and daily aspirin -- do little to nothing to save lives.

On the other hand, most of them can hurt you with side effects and other risks.

But there is one safe and inexpensive pill you can take each day that really can protect your heart and save your life, even if you're already suffering from metabolic syndrome. And while the drug companies do sell their own versions of it, it's not a drug at all.

It's plain old fish oil, which is chock full of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. And now, new research confirms that these supplements can do more for your heart than any of those drugs ever will.

For starters, omega-3 fatty acids can improve the function of your endothelium, or the layer of cells that line your blood vessels. They can improve it so well that 2 grams of fish oil per day can boost your flow-mediated dilation.

That's a measure of blood flow so critical that even small changes can have a dramatic effect on your heart health. In fact, if you lose just 1 percent of that function, your risk of a heart problem jumps by 12 percent.

Fish oil can also help reduce stiffness in your arteries and reduce your levels of deadly triglycerides, according to the study published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

And if that's not enough, fish oil can slash your levels of interleukin-6, a key marker of inflammation -- specifically the inflammation linked to heart problems.

It's so dangerous that one study found high levels of IL-6 can increase the risk of death by more than 400 percent in women with cardiovascular disease.

But you don't have to be suffering from metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular disease to benefit from fish oil. Whether you already have heart problems or are just hoping to avoid them, omega-3 fatty acids can help.

It's a highly effective blood thinner, much safer than warfarin. It can raise your levels of HDL -- or "good" -- cholesterol. And another new study finds it can even help make sure you don't get diabetes, slashing your risk of the disease by a third.

The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is, of course, fatty fish -- but that's not always the best way to get them, especially when you consider the growing problem of mercury contamination in seafood.

When you eat fish, stick to safer low-mercury options such as wild-caught salmon. But to really get what you need to protect your heart and fight disease, you'll have to do more than eat some salmon every now and then.

You'll need a supplement, and you'll need to take it every day.

Forget the expensive ones sold by the drug industry and stick to one from a maker you trust that's been purified to remove the mercury and other contaminants.