Coffee’s blood pressure benefits ‘closest to the heart’

Does coffee help or hurt your heart health? The answer depends on which experts you ask.

Drinking too much coffee has been shown to lead to heart palpitations.

But at the same time, drinking higher amounts of coffee was associated with a three percent reduced risk of developing an arrhythmia, including atrial fibrillation.

A daily cup of coffee may also help heart attack survivors lower their risk of death after a heart attack — and two cups a day may lower heart failure risk by 30 percent.

However, a previous study suggests if you have very high blood pressure, you should limit your coffee consumption to a cup a day or risk doubling your chances of death from cardiovascular disease.

So what is the truth? A team of researchers working to resolve these mixed messages has discovered something surprising about coffee, blood pressure and the best predictor of stroke and heart attack…

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One to three cups a day maintains low blood pressure

Almost 10 million tons of coffee are consumed worldwide. No doubt, a little of the beverage’s popularity might be attributed to studies that imply protective effects against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain neurodegenerative and liver diseases.

However, investigators are still trying to unravel the mechanisms behind these benefits, since many of them do not appear to be directly related to the caffeine in coffee.

“Caffeine is only one of the several coffee components and certainly not the only one with an active role,” says Arrigo Cicero, a professor at the University of Bologna. “Positive effects on human health have indeed been recorded even among those who consume decaffeinated coffee.”

Cicero adds that while it’s true caffeine can increase blood pressure, other bioactive components in coffee seem to offset this effect, resulting in a positive end result on blood pressure levels.

To explore this phenomenon further, the research team looked at a sample of just over 1,500 men and women from an Italian heart study. They compared blood pressure levels and coffee consumption habits, along with a range of other clinical data All the participants were free from cardiovascular disease.

And the results were clear…

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Peripheral blood pressure was significantly lower in participants who consumed one to three cups of coffee a day than in those who did not drink coffee at all. Peripheral blood pressure is the measurement your doctor gets when they use your arm to take your blood pressure.

That wasn’t the only revelation…

For the first time, the researchers were able to confirm an almost identical phenomenon with regard to central aortic pressure — the measure that’s closest to the heart.

Experts believe measuring central aortic pressure is more accurate and useful than peripheral blood pressure because it’s better at predicting if the person will have a stroke or heart disease.

Bottom line: People who drink two or three cups of coffee a day have lower blood pressure than those who drink just one cup or none at all. And all results confirmed the positive effects of coffee in mitigating the risk of cardiovascular disease.

How to drink coffee like the Italians

One thing the researchers did not track was the preparation methods of the self-reported coffee consumption by participants — or how much of the coffee consumed by the participants was decaffeinated.

However, Italians drink very little decaffeinated coffee — it makes up less than 5 percent of the market,  and as of 2018 that was shrinking.

The most popular preparation among Italians is expresso. They may enjoy 7 or 8 per day — but in very small amounts, often just a few ounces at a time.

Based on time of day, milk may be added (cappuccinos are popular in the morning) and sometimes a little cocoa (which has health benefits of its own). Later in the day, adding milk is frowned upon because it’s considered “too heavy.”

As for milk, follow your preference. Copenhagen researchers found that taking your coffee with milk can boost the inflammation-dousing power of polyphenols.

A key thing to remember about drinking coffee is to go easy on the sugar to avoid the sweetener’s ill health effects.

However, Italians can be a little heavy-handed with the sugar. A friend shared a story about an Italian nun who visited and wanted to make the family authentic espresso. It was too sweet even for their tastes. This might be one time the adage “when in Rome,” might not be the best advice.

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Drinking coffee helps maintain low blood pressure — EurekAlert!

Self-Reported Coffee Consumption and Central and Peripheral Blood Pressure in the Cohort of the Brisighella Heart Study — Nutrients

Central Blood Pressure Measurement — Cleveland Clinic

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.