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Coffee and Your Heart . . . Some Good News

By Phillip A. Koren, MD

For many people, it’s the first thing we drink in the morning and often the “go to” pick me up in the afternoons. We like it brewed, flavored and served in a myriad of fancy ways any time of day or night.  It’s coffee. And, according to the latest research, this beverage may have some important heart health benefits.

According to recent research by the American College of Cardiology, for the majority of coffee drinkers, coffee consumption does not seem to have negative effects, and may in fact have some overall health benefits. And, according to a study done by Harvard Public Health Nutrition Source, which studied 130,000 volunteers (men and women) in their 40’s and 50’s, they did not find any relationship between coffee consumption and increased risk of disease, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

For cardiovascular disease in particular, the American College of Cardiology suggests that coffee does not impact irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) and may actually decrease the risk for heart disease and stroke.

Researchers found that coffee may also have a beneficial effect on type 2 diabetes as it can aid in controlling blood sugar levels. These studies suggest that drinking up to six cups a day is an acceptable limit, provided the coffee is filtered and not brewed since filtering coffee through paper removes a compound that was shown to increase LDL cholesterol levels.

While more research needs to be done, there are some guidelines that doctors suggest if you are a coffee drinker:

  • Don’t necessarily start drinking coffee if you currently do not, as it may have an adverse effect on your blood pressure. If you are already a coffee drinker, limit your consumption to no more than six cups a day.
  • Drink coffee that is made through a paper filter rather just brewed. The filter removes some compounds that researchers believe may have negative effects on blood cholesterol levels.
  • Drink coffee that does not have a lot of sugar, whipped cream and other fattening additives. This is about calorie consumption as some of the fancy, flavored coffees have upwards of 500 calories, which many people do not realize.
  • Cut back your coffee consumption, or switch to decaf, if you feel jittery, have trouble sleeping at night or experience mild heartburn, as coffee can contribute to these symptoms.

For most healthy adults, moderate coffee consumption can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. For people who may have adverse side effects, switching to decaf is a great alternative in terms of deriving the benefits.

So, drink it first thing in the morning . . . for a mid-afternoon break . . . and try decaf to prevent jitters and sleep troubles. And please keep it simple to avoid your favorite beverage from sabotaging a healthy diet and exercise regimen.

So go ahead . . . Enjoy your coffee without worry.

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