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7 Teas That Can Help or Harm Your Heart
As part of a heart-healthy eating plan, your doctor or nutritionist may suggest drinking more tea — and with good reason. Soothing, aromatic tea has certainly earned a spot on the list of approved foods and drinks for its myriad of mind and body benefits. Significantly lower in caffeine than coffee, the caffeine you’ll get in a cup of tea varies depending on the type of tea, the brand, how it was processed, and how long it steeps. A chemical analysis of caffeine content in teas steeped for five minutes found Exotica China White tea has 34 milligrams (mg), Stash Premium Green tea has 39 mg, and Stash Earl Grey Black tea has 51 mg of caffeine in an 8 ounce cup.
When it comes to health benefits, the type of tea you drink matters, as do any medications you might be taking. You also have to consider your individual caffeine sensitivity. In general, the best types of tea are those made from the Camellia Sinensis shrub: black, white, green, and Oolong.
Black Tea: It’s Both Good and Bad for Your Heart
Black tea is oxidized most extensively; hence its black color,” says Dr. Brill. “Most of the benefits come from powerful plant chemicals known as polyphenols, as well as flavonoids.” Heart patients who are coffee drinkers should consider switching to black tea because it has roughly half the amount of caffeine as a same-sized cup of coffee. And results of a clinical trial published in the May 2012 Preventive Medicine journal indicated that people who drank three cups of black tea per day had, on average, 36 percent lower triglyceride levels and a 17 percent improvement in their cholesterol profiles.
All black teas are caffeinated, which is not great if you have high blood pressure or a fast heart rate — it can make things worse. For black teas, you may expect anywhere from 14 to 70 mg of caffeine.
Stimulants can trigger heart arrhythmias in some patients. If any teas give you palpitations or a rapid heartbeat, you should stop drinking them and let your doctor know. And use caution if you’re taking Coumadin (warfarin), a commonly prescribed blood thinner, as black tea may decrease blood clotting and increase your chances of bruising and bleeding.
Green Tea: Lower Lipids, Less Plaque
For your heart health, it pays to go green. With green tea, the leaves have been harvested and allowed to wither, and then steamed. There is no oxidation. We recommend choosing green tea as often as possible if you’re a tea drinker. Just don’t ruin it with sugar. Clinical studies on drinking green tea have found that it helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides — good news for your heart. And drinking green tea is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death from a heart attack or stroke, according to a study of more than 90,000 Japanese participants published in the March 2015 Annals of Epidemiology.
An 8-ounce cup of green tea gives you from 24 to 45 mg caffeine depending on how long it’s brewed. Powerful antioxidants in green tea — especially one called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG — can help prevent atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque in the arteries. The EGCG can also help boost metabolism, helping to make it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. In addition, green tea helps improve the function of endothelial cells in blood vessels.
White Tea: Good for Circulation
White tea is harvested from the young buds of the tea plant and only briefly processed. This is probably the purest tea, and it is recommended for overall heart health. The flavonoids are good for the heart and help dilate the arteries by thinning the blood, lowering blood pressure, and reducing bad cholesterol. White tea may help protect not just your heart, but also the entire circulatory system.
But double-check with your doctor if you’re taking a blood thinner like Coumadin or are sensitive to caffeine. White tea does contain caffeine, which can speed your heart rate or increase your risk for high blood pressure.
Oolong Tea: Lower Cholesterol and a Warfarin Warning
Crushed tea leaves that have been oxidized for a period of time, and then heated to stop the process, makeup Oolong tea. One clinical study on Oolong tea found that it may help lower cholesterol levels in patients with coronary artery disease, though more research is needed to be certain. In animal studies, Oolong appeared to reduce triglycerides and food intake, though there is not yet a lot of data on Oolong and its cardiac effects.
Always talk to your doctor if you plan to drink Oolong, especially if you take a blood thinner like Coumadin. People who take those medications must tell their doctors everything they are taking — every herb, supplement, vitamin, and so on. And that includes tea.
Chamomile Tea: Sleep Enabler
Though herbal teas do not come from the traditional tea plant, they still have some health benefits; such as soothing herbal teas like linden or chamomile. These teas help with a less-direct, but still crucially important, benefit for cardiac wellness: sleep. One of the things many of my patients have issues with is getting enough sleep. Sleep is such an important part of restorative health for everyone. Try getting into the habit of having a nighttime routine to wind down, and include a cup of warm chamomile tea right before bed.
Patients with a coronary artery stent, or who are taking aspirin or Coumadin (warfarin) blood thinners, should consult their doctor before drinking chamomile tea, because it may increase the risk for internal bleeding.
Ginseng Tea: Natural Blood Thinner
Though ginseng has not been formally evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, drinking it may potentially give a boost to your heart. Studies do support that ginseng may lower blood pressure by relaxing the arteries. It thins the blood by blocking platelet adhesion, and it may improve cholesterol profiles. Consider ginseng tea a tasty replacement for a more sugary beverage, which also has heart-boosting benefits. Replace that sugar-loaded sweet tea with a glass of brewed ginseng tea instead. Not only will this provide you with a slimming benefit, but it will also reduce your intake of excess sugar, which can damage your heart.
As with most teas, talk to your doctor if you’re taking blood thinners like Coumadin or anti-platelet drugs such as Plavix (clopidogrel).
St. John’s Wort: Risky Combined With Heart Meds
You may have heard that the St. John’s Wort herb can help treat symptoms of depression but be wary of drinking this tea if you have a heart condition. The biggest concern is that it’s not good with cardiac medications. The ingredient is “epically dangerous” if you’re taking blood thinners or cardiac medications for heart failure, like digoxin, or if you require a stent or have atrial fibrillation.
If you’re considering drinking St. John’s Wort tea for depression, talk to your doctor instead. There’s such a close association between depression and heart disease.
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