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Coffee Breaks are Good for Your Heart

In a new European study which included nearly ½ million people, it was concluded that middle-aged people who drank up to 3 cups of coffee daily showed a lower risk for stroke or death over the next decade, along with better heart structure and function. The definition of moderate coffee drinking was anywhere between ½ cup – 3 cups daily. People drinking more than 3 cups daily showed no ill effects but did not show the benefits that were documented in the moderate coffee drinking category. More than 30,000 people in the study were analyzed with MRI scanning of the heart which showed both smaller sized and better functioning hearts in the moderate coffee drinking group. The follow up on these patients lasted between 10-15 years. The types of coffee included both caffeinated and decaffeinated as well as instant coffee. In the study the average age was 56 years old and included almost 50/50 men vs. women.

Of note is that in the “non-drinking” group, defined as less that ½ cup daily, there was a higher incidence of strokes and overall cardiovascular disease during a median 11 year follow-up period. Tea drinkers were also included, but the definition of moderate drinking increased to 4 cups of tea daily. This group also showed the same cardiovascular benefits as did the moderate coffee drinkers.

No definite conclusions were drawn from this study in terms of identifying the beneficial effects of coffee or tea. Potentially caffeine may be the cause of the beneficial effects (even decaf coffee has some caffeine), with mild stimulation of the heart keeping the heart smaller and physiologically structurally stronger.

Another potential cause of this “coffee benefit” may simply be the lower stress levels that are felt when we “take a break” to enjoy a cup of coffee multiple times during the day. The non-drinkers may be working incessantly with higher stress levels which might translate into a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In summation, the coffee break which has been a part of most cultures for many years may have unknowingly been a benefit for society’s cardiac health.


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