Love coffee? Well, we’ve got good news for you: it’s reciprocated. Coffee loves you too, or to be more specific, coffee loves your heart.
If you’re someone who only finds their personality at the bottom of their morning mug, or you can’t get through the afternoon without a caffeine boost, then you already know about the functional benefits of coffee.
The caffeine in your hot beverage can help you feel more alert and less fatigued. Drink too much of it, of course, and it can make it harder for you to fall asleep.
Analysis of several large-scale, long-term studies by the American Heart Association (AHA) has found a link between drinking coffee and better cardiac health – specifically, a reduced risk of heart failure. Their conclusions are based on studies of 3 generations of people over some 72 years – that’s a lot of data.
It’s worth letting this thought percolate through your brain: the more coffee you drink, the lower your risk of heart failure. By the way, heart failure isn’t the same as a heart attack: heart failure basically means that your body battles to circulate enough blood and oxygen. People with heart failure tire quickly – climbing a flight of stairs, for example, can be almost impossible.
The study results show that these heart health benefits only come from drinking regular black coffee. Interestingly, decaf coffee doesn’t have the same positive effects – in fact, the data suggests that drinking ‘unleaded’ coffee can actually increase your risk of heart failure.
The amount of coffee you drink is also important. Just one cup a day doesn’t seem to make any real difference. It’s only when you drink two or more cups per day that there seems to be a benefit. In fact, the advantage could be a 30% reduction in the chances of heart failure, or a 5% to 12% reduction per cup of black coffee drunk per day.
Adding milk or creamer and sugar or artificial sweeteners can however reduce the benefits. There is also such a thing as too much coffee – or rather, too much caffeine. While this amount varies from person to person, you’ll no doubt have experienced the effects yourself: feeling edgy or jittery, or even having palpitations.
Pregnant women and people with diabetes, for example, should watch how much caffeine they consume. And caffeine is not recommended for children or teenagers (although they are more likely to find caffeine in energy drinks than espressos).
Scientists are still trying to establish what it is about coffee that appears to give it heart-health- boosting properties. However, the AHA felt confident enough in their analysis of the study results to recommend – other than for people who have medical reasons to avoid caffeine – that black, caffeinated coffee in moderation can form part of a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.