BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES:Lower circulating polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) may induce loss of heart function. We investigated whether lower concentrations of n-3 and n-6 PUFAs were associated with less favourable echocardiographic measures and higher heart rate in older Caucasians, cross-sectionally and after 7 years of follow-up.SUBJECTS/METHODS:We used data from the Hoorn Study, a population-based cohort. Cross-sectional data were available for 621 participants and longitudinal data for 336 participants. Mean age was 68.6±6.8 years at baseline. We performed linear regression analyses using n-3 and n-6 PUFAs quartiles - assayed by gas liquid chromatography - with left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF), left ventricular mass index, left atrial volume index and heart rate.RESULTS:In multivariable analyses (regression coefficient (95% confidence interval)), the lowest eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid quartiles compared with the highest quartiles were cross-sectionally associated with lower LVEF. Lower eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid concentrations were associated with higher heart rate: 3.7 b.p.m. (1.5, 6.0; P for trend <0.001) and 3.4 b.p.m. (1.2, 5.6; P for trend 0.001), respectively. Multivariate longitudinal analyses showed a significant trend across quartiles for alpha-linolenic acid in relation to LVEF. The lowest linoleic acid quartile was significantly associated with a decreased LVEF of -4.0% compared with the highest quartile.CONCLUSIONS:This study found no strong evidence of longitudinal associations of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid with echocardiographic measures, however, lower concentrations of alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid were associated with decreased LVEF. These results provide evidence for a potential protective role of alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid in relation to systolic function. © 2013 Macmillan Publishers Limited.