Whether or not drinking coffee affects heart health is controversial. Certainly too much caffeine can raise your blood pressure, give you the jitters, increase anxiety and lead to palpitations, but is it likely to increase your risk of a heart attack?
Coffee protects arteries
According to the BMJ journal, Heart, moderate coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of hardening of the arteries – at least in healthy Korean adults. The study looked at results from over 25,000 men and women (average aged 41 years) whose health screening plan included CT scanning to measure the level of calcium build-up in their coronary arteries.
Those who drank from one to five cups of coffee per day had significantly lower levels of calcium build-up than non-coffee drinkers, even after taking other factors into account (age, smoking status, alcohol intake, body mass index, blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol). Those drinking five or more cups of coffee per day also had less coronary artery calcification, but the difference was less pronounced.
Another recent paper published in the Journal of Pharmacological Sciences found that drinking coffee containing caffeine slightly (but significantly) raised blood pressure and decreased finger blood flow compared with decaffeinated coffee but did not affect heart rate.
Although this may sound like bad news, there is a twist. The caffeinated coffee enhanced the ability of blood vessels to rebound again, once the initial constriction wore off (an effect described as post-occlusive reactive hyperemia). The researchers suggest this is the first evidence that the caffeine in a cup of coffee can improve the function of tiny blood vessels in healthy people.
Interestingly, the research in the first Korean paper did not differentiate between caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, although decaffeinated coffee is apparently not that popular in Korea.
When drinking coffee, it is important not to add sugar, as cutting back on sugar in drinks can reduce the risk of diabetes.
Coffee and blood pressure
Some people with hypertension are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, which can cause blood pressure to rise by as much as 10/8 mmHg. You can assess your caffeine sensitive by measuring your blood pressure before and at regular intervals after drinking a cup of coffee as explained at mylowerbloodpressure.com.
Where does this leave coffee lovers?
At the moment I restrict myself to two – occasionally three – mugs (300ml) of really good, home-brewed coffee a day. We use fresh beans delivered monthly to ensure they remain fresh and produce a lovely crema.
We also prepare the beans using a Sage Barista Express (Heston Blumenthal) which was jolly expensive but delivers an unbeatable extraction (so much so we even take it with us on holidays – sad, I know!)
On balance, I think I’ll stick to my current coffee time-table (first coffee at 9.00am, second coffee around 10am) which (like a Hobbit’s second breakfast) sets me up for the day.
If things get particularly stressful, I’ll allow myself a third cup in the full knowledge that it may put my blood pressure up, but will probably bring it back down again afterwards, too.
|This really is a gem of a machine that makes the best bean-to-cup coffee I’ve ever tasted. While it may seem expensive, add up the cost of your daily shop-bought cappucino, long black or latte (which you no longer need to queue for) and it quickly pays for itself. Prices have come down – I paid £200 more for mine three years’ ago when it first came out, but it was still worth it (and is still going strong despite five people using it twice each every day!)
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