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Q: Please settle an argument for me. Does drinking green tea thin or thicken the blood? I have a bet riding on your answer. -- T.Y.

A: "Thickening or thinning" blood is most often a misnomer. People who take the anti-clotting medicine Coumadin are told they are taking a blood thinner. Coumadin doesn't thin the blood. It prevents blood clots from forming within blood vessels. Such clots can cause strokes or a pulmonary embolus.

In only a very few illnesses does blood truly thicken.

Tea contains substances called flavonoids. Flavonoids afford protection against heart attacks and strokes. They are said to prevent many cancers, with one prominent exception -- stomach cancer.

Most information on tea comes from observations made of drinkers of green tea. Green tea is the popular tea of Asia. We favor black tea. Both teas come from the same plant. The only difference between them is the way they are processed. It's reasonable to ascribe to black tea the benefits of green tea.

I suppose tea would be considered a blood thinner since it is alleged to stave off strokes and pulmonary emboli. No matter how you look at tea, it is not a blood thickener. I side with the person who calls tea a blood thinner -- however inaccurate that might be.

So who won, and what do I get?

Q: There seems to be an emphasis to take one aspirin a day to prevent strokes, something that is the terror of my life at my age -- 84. After I take aspirin I get black-and-blue. One time my whole lower arm was black. I cleverly stopped taking aspirin and don't have anything more than an occasional black-and-blue mark. Where does that leave me? Does not taking it put me in danger of having a stroke? -- C.R.

A: An 80-milligram baby aspirin can give the stroke prevention you want. The adult 325-mg tablet might be too strong for you.

Aspirin wards off strokes (and heart attacks) by blocking clot formation in arteries to the brain and heart. For that matter, it blocks clot formation in all body arteries. Older people have fragile blood vessels and little tissue support to protect those vessels. A small bump can produce a large bruise. Add to the vessel weakness the anticoagulant effect of aspirin and you double your chances of bruising.

People should not medicate themselves with aspirin without asking their doctors if aspirin is appropriate for them. Some strokes result from broken brain blood vessels and not from clot formation within an artery. Aspirin would increase bleeding from a broken brain vessel and turn a small stroke into a massive one.

Q: Four years ago I had bursitis in my left hip. X-rays showed I had calcium in the area of the hip bursa. Last week I developed bursitis in my shoulder. X-rays showed calcium deposits. Please tell me if these deposits have anything to do with my diet. -- G.J.

A: A bursa is a small, pancake-shaped gadget interposed between tendons and bones to reduce friction when the tendon pulls on a bone to bend it. They are the body's ball bearings.

"Itis" at the end of a word signifies inflammation. Inflamed bursae are common ailments of those who are physically active. Athletes get bursitis frequently.

When the body sees inflammation, it tries to snuff out the inflammation by plastering calcium over the involved area.

Your diet has nothing to do with the calcifications.


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