There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea to fire up our day or to downshift at day’s end. After water, tea is the most popular drink in the world and an integral part of various cultures since ancient times. January being National Tea Month lets tea drinkers celebrate their passion for camellia sinensis, the plant from which all true tea – including black, green, white, oolong, pu-erh – comes from.
Seniors who drink tea may not know that their beverage habit may be supporting their physical and mental health as they age, according to various studies. Being an avid tea consumer as an older adult may be particularly advantageous in managing chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease, according to medical research. Here are some reasons to sip a cup or down a cool glass of (unsweetened) tea a little more often:
Mood booster and stress reliever
Put on the kettle to lift your spirits. Depression is common among older adults, as the World Health Organization notes that 7% of those over 60 years old report having a “major depressive disorder.” Scientists examining how tea may affect mood have found that regularly drinking tea can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A water-soluble amino acid in tea called L-theanine is known as a relaxing agent that can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Keep diabetes risk low
Older adults with Type 2 diabetes may benefit from drinking tea because of its plant antioxidants called polyphenols. With higher polyphenol levels, green tea (being prepared from unfermented leaves) edges out black tea. “Through a complex biochemical reaction, tea – especially green tea – helps sensitize cells so that they are able better to metabolize sugar,” said preventative cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s health at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital.
Maintain heart health
Drinking black or green tea may help lower your blood pressure. Researchers at UCI School of Medicine have found that anti-hypertensive compounds in green tea and black tea activates proteins in the walls of blood vessels, and thus can help relax them. In addition to lowering blood pressure, drinking tea may help older adults reduce unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels.
Boost the brain
The brains of longtime tea drinkers appear to be “better organized,” a trait associated with healthy cognitive function according to study by the National University of Singapore. Research by The Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging reported that drinking green or black tea can significantly lower the risk of cognitive decline in older adults, even more so for people who carry the APOE4 gene that increases the risk of developing dementia.
A few clinical trials are showing that polyphenols in tea may have anti-inflammatory benefits that can help improve overall health. Many older adults with chronic conditions live with inflammation (our body’s immune system response to an infection, injury or irritant). Reducing inflammation prevents damage to healthy cells.
Being a regular tea drinker may help older women protect themselves against osteoporosis. A study of women tea drinkers in Britain by the University of Cambridge School of Medicine found that those who enjoyed tea regularly had higher bone density in their hips.
Nearly 30% of older Americans are chronically dehydrated. Seniors are at greater risk because as we age, our body’s fluid reserve shrinks, the ability to conserve water is less and thirst sense becomes less acute. Recent research shows that drinking tea in moderate amounts can be as effective as drinking water – a boon for older adults who struggle with drinking plain, tasteless water.
It is common to develop insomnia as we age. Sipping a mildly tranquilizing calming tea like chamomile about 30 minutes before going to bed may help older adults get the deep sleep they need for brain health.
“Eight Senior Health Benefits to Drinking Tea” written by Michelle Flores, Amada Blog contributor. The contents of this blog are not meant to be used as medical advice. Before implementing any dietary changes or beginning a nutritional plan, consult with your doctor.