When I was in my early 20s, I traveled to Great Britain to visit my grandfather. Unfortunately, while I was there my grandfather and I were involved in a motor vehicle accident.
No one was seriously hurt, but my grandfather did suffer some broken ribs and was taken to a local emergency room. When I arrived at the emergency room, I had anticipated that my grandfather would have had x-rays, blood work and possibly even a surgical consultation to rule out internal bleeding. What greeted me instead was my grandfather sitting in a chair, holding a small blue and white porcelain tea cup, drinking tea.
When I asked the nurse what was going on, she said that tea helps everything.
My grandfather recovered well despite the lack of x-rays, blood work and surgical consultations. But what about the tea? There’s a lot of information in the medical literature touting the benefits of tea. It might help to prevent cancer, dementia and even heart disease. A recent study adds to this list by suggesting that tea might help prevent complications after a heart attack.
In this country, many people survive heart attacks. However, what comes after a heart attack can be just as serious and life threatening. After a heart attack, the heart can be at risk for developing dangerous heart beat patterns called arrhythmias. Among the most serious is something called a ventricular arrhythmia.
The protective benefits of tea on ventricular arrhythmias was recently published by Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., of the Beth Israel Medical Center in Boston. In his study, 1,912 patients admitted to the hospital after an acute heart attack were followed to see how many developed ventricular arrhythmias. Patients were divided into three separate groups: those who did not drink tea; moderate consumption of tea (less than 14 cups per week); and heavy consumption of tea (more than 14 cups per week). Ventricular arrhythmias were found to occur in 16 percent of patients who did not drink tea. Among patients who were heavy drinkers of tea, ventricular arrhythmias occurred in 14 percent. Moderate tea drinkers had the lowest risk of ventricular arrhythmias at 11 percent.
A second phase of the study, using an additional 1,700 patients, demonstrated again the benefits of drinking tea, and these benefits did not translate to coffee consumption. In addition, in the second phase, drinking tea also reduced the risk of other heart arrhythmias such as tachycardia and fibrillation.
It was concluded that the compounds found in tea, polyphenols and catechins, might prevent dangerous heart rhythms in those who have had heart attacks.
Interestingly, moderate consumption of tea was better than excessive drinking of tea. This difference might be related to the total weekly amount of caffeine consumed.
Maybe my grandfather’s nurse was right. Tea helps everything. To quote a Chinese proverb, “Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary (pharmacist).” I’m not sure about starving the apothecary, but certainly it can have a positive effect on health.