Does coffee help brew a healthy heart?

Mary Gardner, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Edward Hospital, shared in the Edwards-Elmhurst Health Blog that coffee was long considered something of a guilty pleasure. After all, it’s how we start our days: “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup!” Yet, one too many cups of coffee could give you the jitters and, if it’s late in the day, interfere with a good night’s sleep.The pros and cons of drinking coffee have been up for debate, with some experts saying to avoid the beverage because it could be harmful to your health. In recent years though, researchers have been looking at the flip side: What positive impact might those cups of joe have on a person’s health?

More studies will be needed to establish a clear cause and effect relationship between coffee and heart health, but there’s an extensive body of research linking coffee consumption to a reduced risk for heart-related problems, including heart failure, stroke and coronary artery disease, which can eventually block an artery and cause a heart attack.

It’s still not clear which component(s) of coffee might help protect the heart from cardiovascular disease. According to a Brazilian study published in March 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, cardiovascular protection might be explained by coffee’s “anti-inflammatory properties, strong antioxidant activity … and antithrombotic capacities (ability to reduce blood clot formation)…”

Studies also show that drinking coffee may reduce the risk of several other ailments, such as certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states: “moderate coffee consumption (three to five 8 oz. cups/day or 400 milligrams (mg)/day of caffeine) can be incorporated into healthy eating patterns.” This is based on a standard cup of coffee containing about 95 mg caffeine in 8 ounces.

For pregnant or breastfeeding women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a limit of two cups of home-brewed coffee, or 200 mg of caffeine, daily.

People who suffer from certain heart rhythm or rate problems, gastroesophageal reflux disease, urinary issues or anxiety should talk with their doctor about whether caffeinated beverages are okay for them.

The bottom line: if you make those cups of morning joe part of your lifestyle of good food choices and exercise, remember moderation is key. Also, watch what you add to your coffee. Don’t use a heavy hand with the sugar and whole milk, and go easy on adding extras like caramel syrup and whipped cream. Before you know it, that potentially heart-healthy drink can become anything but.

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