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Black Tea and Blood Pressure: More Good News
Caffeine has long been considered a cardiology bugaboo, but we now know that tea and coffee have important and intriguing health benefits when enjoyed in moderation. Although green tea usually gets all the glory, black tea has been associated with a substantial reduction in heart attack risk. Studies from around the world have reported anywhere from a 40 to 70 percent lower incidence of heart disease in tea drinkers when compared to abstainers. Exactly why this happens is not fully understood, but most scientists who study the subject suspect that it is the important antioxidant effects of tea that provide the main source of cardiovascular protection.
Catechins are the primary antioxidants found in black and green tea. Small studies suggest that these substances may help prevent bad cholesterol, or LDL, from getting lodged inside the walls of our arteries. This process, called atherosclerosis, is what ultimately leads to heart attacks and strokes. There is also some evidence that tea can reduce levels of cortisol, an important stress hormone that is linked to higher blood pressure and weight gain.
A new study from the University of Western Australia suggests that three cups of black tea daily may help to lower blood pressure. Although the drop was modest (just 2-3 mm Hg), even this small reduction in blood pressure may help reduce our risk for heart disease and stroke.
While coffee also appears to have important antioxidant effects, it does not have the same impact on blood pressure, and in fact, may temporarily increase blood pressure readings. Caffeinated soft drinks have no health benefits at all.
We are so accustomed to being told what not to do that many of us bear a sense of guilt and angst over our small pleasures. It’s nice to know that a daily ritual that we find to be both calming and invigorating has the power to turn our health in a positive direction.
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