Most of us know the lifestyle factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. Being overweight and sedentary, particularly if you have a family history of heart disease, is like buying a ticket to a heart attack.
Diet and exercise are critical to keeping your heart healthy but there may be another simple thing that you can add to your life to help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Try drinking some green tea!
That's right – there's every reason to believe that green tea may be very effective at preventing and even treating heart disease. Green tea was first noted for its potential health benefits when researchers began studying Asian cultures and their low incidence of diseases like heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. They began to look for a link between the green tea so heavily consumed in these countries and this low incidence of disease.
Research has shown green tea to be effective in many ways. For instance, it can help lower LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). Plus, it seems to prevent the oxidation of this LDL cholesterol. It is oxidation that causes the LDLs to harden and turn into arterial plaque that clogs our arteries. Green tea has also been shown to inhibit the formation of abnormal blood clots (which are the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes).
The UK Tea Council reported on a study that highlighted many of the healthy properties of green tea. In this study, over 1000 healthy men were observed. Their blood was collected for evaluation and their food and drink habits were recorded. Of the study group, 22% consumed tea on a regular basis, with 10% drinking two or more cups per day.
The study found that the tea drinkers were less obese and tended to drink less coffee and alcohol than the non tea drinkers. In addition, their blood tests showed a significantly lower amount of overall body inflammation, suggesting that tea acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Both of these findings are significant in the battle against heart disease. Obesity is a leading cause of heart disease, and keeping your weight in check is one of the best things you can do to keep your heart healthy. If tea contributes to maintaining a healthy weight, this is great news, not only for those concerned about heart disease, but for all the people who have struggled with their weight for years.
In addition, the finding that tea reduced the amount of inflammation in the body is important. One of the underlying issues that plagues those with cardiovascular disease, and contributions to its start is inflammation. If tea can reduce the amount of inflammation in the body, this can also help prevent heart disease.
Of course, more research is needed to truly understand exactly how green tea affects inflammation in the body, but the possibilities are promising. We do know that green tea is very healthy and is full of anti-oxidants, which are known to protect health.
Each day as our body converts the food we eat into energy, free radicals are created as a by product of this process. These free radicals damage our cells and DNA if they are not kept at bay. Over time, this damage causes aging and disease. Anti-oxidants have the power to combat these free radicals, preventing them from damaging the body.
For this reason, a diet rich in anti-oxidants is critical to health maintenance and disease prevention. Fruits and vegetables contain anti-oxidants, as does coffee, red wine and dark chocolate. So, it's extremely important that you fill your plate each day with plenty of fruits and vegetables to help get your daily dose of anti-oxidants. But, one of the most potent anti-oxidant sources is green tea.
Tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant and is grown primarily in Asia and India. Tea leaves are processed differently depending upon the type of tea being made. For black tea, the leaves are fermented; For green and white tea the leaves are left in their natural state.
It is for this reason that green tea (and probably white tea) has proven to be so good for our bodies. The tea leaves left unfurmented contain more of the potent anti-oxidants. So, while black tea is healthy and does contain anti-oxidants, green tea gives you the most bang for your buck.
We still have much to learn about all the wonderful properties of green tea, and how it can help us manage our health. However, there is clear evidence that green tea has a powerful disease preventing effect – probably even more so than fruits and vegetables. But, even though we still need more research, we certainly understand enough now to know that green tea is somewhat something we all should be drinking.
Particularly if you have a family history of heart disease or some other risk factors for cardiovascular problems, adding green tea to your diet is a simple way to provide some protection. You certainly have nothing to lose – and you may have a long healthy life to gain.