Drinking tea may boost survival rate for heart attack patients

Drinking several cups of tea a day may increase a patient's chance of surviving after a heart attack, researchers believe.

Drinking several cups of tea a day may increase a patient's chance of surviving after a heart attack, researchers believe.

Those who drank more than 14 cups a week were the least likely to die in the years after an attack, the study of 1,900 American patients published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association found.

Britons drink 165 million cups of tea every day, according to the British Tea Council – equivalent to three cups per person. Tea contains flavonoids, antioxidants that occur naturally in plants, which are believed to have a wide range of heath benefits.

The American researchers investigated the effect of tea on heart attack survival rates by interviewing and examining patients over nearly four years starting four days after their attack. The study included 1,019 non-tea drinkers, 615 moderate drinkers, whose average weekly tea intake in the year before their heart attack was fewer than 14 cups, and 266 heavy tea drinkers, who drank more than 14 cups per week.

When the patients were reviewed nearly four years after their heart attacks, 313 were dead. Three-quarters of those had died from cardiovascular disease.

Heavy tea drinkers were most likely to have survived while the death rate among moderate tea drinkers was nearly one-third lower than that of those who did not drink tea. This led researchers to conclude there was an "inverse relationship" between tea drinking and heart attack survival rates.

Kenneth Mukamal, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University, believes the study suggests a link between the consumption of flavonoids and better survival rates in people suffering from heart or blood vessel disease.

Mr Mukamal said: "We found that tea drinkers generally had lower death rates regardless of age, gender, smoking status, obesity, hypertension, diabetes or previous heart attack."

Flavonoids may also have helped some patients avoid further heart attacks by preventing degeneration of the arterial wall, Mr Mukamal suggested. He cited an earlier study in which black tea drinking improved the blood vessels' ability to relax. Flavonoids can also have anti-clotting effects but Mr Mukamal said more research was needed to establish whether that happenened in the body.

He said further research, including detailed accounts of patients' diets, was needed to discover whether there was a definite link between tea and survival after a heart attack. Apples, onions, broccoli and red wine are also rich in flavonoids.

The research is the latest in a series of studies to conclude that tea drinking can be good for health. Earlier this year a study in China showed that regular tea drinkers were only half as likely to develop cancer of the stomach or oesophagus as non-drinkers. Research also revealed that the caffeine in tea or coffee could relieve aches and pains at least as quickly as painkilling medication.

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