Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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The path to longevity is precarious. Chronic diseases lurk around every corner. The gravest threat is heart disease – the leading cause of death globally. However, you can erect a barrier against heart disease by making healthy dietary decisions.

A new research review carried out by the Tea Advisory Panel (TAP) makes a strong case for drinking German chamomile tea.

German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a popular herbal tea made from the chamomile flowers native to southern and eastern Europe.

The new TAP research review found German chamomile tea boasts several health benefits which reduce the risk of heart disease.

The review concluded it can “significantly reduce cholesterol and help to improve glucose, insulin, and blood lipid levels”.

This is significant because high cholesterol and glucose (blood sugar) levels are both precursors to heart disease.

The finding popped out of a review which sought to evaluate three herbal teas – German chamomile, Rosehip and spearmint – and their impact on health issues of importance to women.

The review identified randomised controlled trials (RCTs) from a large international database of peer reviewed research papers.

RCTs randomly assign participants into an experimental group or a control group to test a specific drug, treatment or other intervention.

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The trials were identified by use of specific search terms such as “chamomile tea/infusion”.

“Because we wanted to evaluate mechanisms of action (i.e. how the teas might work – rather than the fact that they did work – in different health issues) we also identified studies of teas and tea extracts conducted in laboratories,” explained Doctor Gill Jenkins, GP, study co-author and guest advisor to TAP.

“Such studies can really drill down to how teas and their ingredients might act in parts of the body as well as the whole body.”

According to the doc, the overall findings from the review of RCTs also found chamomile can address poor sleep and anxiety, both of which contribute to heart disease and brain decline.

“Improvement in sleep and anxiety can improve brain function (due to being better rested) so it can be concluded that chamomile tea could indirectly improve brain function, although the immediate effect of chamomile is to calm with no effect on memory straight away,” she noted.

General tips to lower risk of heart disease

The NHS says: You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than 6g (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure.”

High blood pressure raises your risk of heart disease by forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood around your body.

Six grams of salt is about one teaspoonful.

“You should avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood,” warns the NHS.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Meat pies
  • Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • Butter
  • Ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking.

What’s more, combining a healthy diet with regular exercise is the best way of maintaining a healthy weight, which is essential to staving off heart disease.

“Any aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming and dancing, makes your heart work harder and keeps it healthy,” adds the NHS.

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