By John Salak –
Stop worrying about your morning joe. A couple of cups of coffee may just help boost heart health and longevity.
In what is being hailed as the largest study of its kind to look at coffee’s potential role in heart disease and death, an Australian study that was recently presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st Annual Scientific Session wipes away the notion that drinking coffee daily is dangerous. Instead, the study claims a few mugs of joe are probably good for a person’s heart.
“Because coffee can quicken heart rate, some people worry that drinking it could trigger or worsen certain heart issues. This is where general medical advice to stop drinking coffee may come from. But our data suggest that daily coffee intake shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather included as a part of a healthy diet for people with and without heart disease,” reported Peter M. Kistler, MD, the study’s senior author and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia. “We found coffee drinking had either a neutral effect—meaning that it did no harm—or was associated with benefits to heart health.”
The Australian study’s results were based on an analysis of data drawn from almost 400,000 people with an average age of 57. The information collected from the UK BioBank, a large-scale prospective health information database, broke down the relationship between various levels of coffee consumption and heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias); cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, heart failure and stroke; and total heart-related deaths among people both with and without cardiovascular disease.
The results found either no adverse effects from coffee consumption or, in many cases, significant reductions in cardiovascular risk after controlling for exercise, alcohol, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure that could also play a role in heart health and longevity. Ultimately, having two to three cups of coffee a day was connected to a 10-15 percent lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, a heart rhythm problem or dying for any reason. Beyond this, the risk of suffering stroke or heart-related death was lowest among people who drank a single cup of coffee daily. Researchers noted that benefits lessened on average in both cases as individuals drank more or less coffee.
“Clinicians generally have some apprehension about people with known cardiovascular disease or arrhythmias continuing to drink coffee, so they often err on the side of caution and advise them to stop drinking it altogether due to fears that it may trigger dangerous heart rhythms,” Kistler said. “But our study shows that regular coffee intake is safe and could be part of a healthy diet for people with heart disease.”
Despite the optimal benefits seemingly achieved by drinking up to three cups daily, Kistler was quick to note that people enjoying one or two cups a day shouldn’t increase their coffee consumption to hit this consumption goal. “There is a whole range of mechanisms through which coffee may reduce mortality and have these favorable effects on cardiovascular disease,” he said. “Coffee drinkers should feel reassured that they can continue to enjoy coffee even if they have heart disease. Coffee is the most common cognitive enhancer—it wakes you up, makes you mentally sharper and it’s a very important component of many people’s daily lives.”
The Australian study isn’t the only recent research to promote the promise that coffee is heart-healthy. Late in 2021, research out of the Heart and Vascular Centre of Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary came to similar conclusions. “Our results suggest that regular coffee consumption is safe, as even high daily intake was not associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes and all-cause mortality after a follow-up of 10 to 15 years,” reported Dr. Judit Simon. “Moreover, 0.5 to 3 cups of coffee per day was independently associated with lower risks of stroke, death from cardiovascular disease, and death from any cause.”
Both studies are significant because while coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, research is still thin on the long-term health impacts of regular consumption. Simon noted that the imaging analysis of her study “indicated that compared with participants who did not drink coffee regularly, daily consumers had healthier sized and better functioning hearts. This was consistent with reversing the detrimental effects of aging on the heart.”
Ultimately, she speculated that “our findings suggest that coffee consumption of up to 3 cups per day is associated with favorable cardiovascular outcomes. While further studies are needed to explain the underlying mechanisms, the observed benefits might be partly explained by positive alterations in cardiac structure and function.”