May 6, 2002 -- Drinking tea may not only reduce your risk of developing heart disease, but it may also improve your chances of surviving longer after a heart attack. A new study shows heart attack victims who drank the most tea were the least likely to die in the years immediately following a heart attack.
Researchers say the findings add to a growing notion that the antioxidant-rich flavonoids found in black and green teas prevent heart disease. But this is the first study to suggest that drinking tea can actually protect the heart after damage has already occurred.
"The effects of tea on health have been widely studied, in part because tea contains flavonoids and other antioxidant compounds, but we don't know of any previous studies that considered the effect of tea consumption on survival after heart attack," says study author Kenneth Mukamal, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a news release. "Flavonoids are probably the best guess for the apparent benefits of tea in this study."
The findings are published in the May 7 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. For the study, researchers asked 1,900 heart attack survivors about their weekly consumption of caffeinated teas and followed them for about four years.
They found that those who reported drinking about two cups of tea per week were 28% less likely to die in the years immediately following their heart attack compared with non-drinkers. And the more tea the patients drank, the less likely they were to have died in the follow-up period. Those who reported drinking more than 14 cups per week had a 44% lower risk of death.
"We found that tea drinkers generally had lower death rates regardless of age, gender, smoking status, obesity, hypertension, diabetes or previous heart attack," says Mukamal in the release.
The study authors say there are several possible explanations for tea's heart-healthy effects. For example, a recent study found that black tea improved the ability of the blood vessels to relax in people with heart disease. In addition, flavonoids have been shown to affect the oxidation of the so-called bad LDL cholesterol, which may prevent heart attacks, and the substance may also have an anti-clotting effect.
Other foods rich in flavonoids include apples, onions, and broccoli.
Although this study did not differentiate from green or black tea consumption, black tea accounts for the majority of tea consumption in the U.S., and the patients were studied at American medical centers.