Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Coffee; what’s the big deal anyway? Is it heart healthy or not?  As we celebrate February, National Heart Month, I thought it might be appropriate to break it down a little.  The good, the bad and the ugly.

Coffee has always been regarded as being detrimental to our heart health. You know, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, increased risk of heart disease and cardiac arrhythmias. Like most of the general public, I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

According to Dr. Richard Forgoros from verywellhealth.com, It appears that when most of these earlier studies were done, the researchers didn’t take into account, the other risk factors that pair with coffee consumption to increase the risk of heart disease. Risk factors like lack of exercise, smoking and all the stuff we love to add to our coffee. (you know the “good ” stuff, the creamer, milk, sugar, syrup) 

Now, what’s the real deal about coffee and heart disease? This is the part I love the most! Once again, the large population studies, fail to show the risk of coronary artery disease among us coffee drinkers. In fact, coffee drinking may have a protective effect in preventing heart disease. 

A huge factor in heart disease is the build-up of plaque in the arteries. These clogged arteries are what lead to blood clots, heart attacks and other types of heart failure. A Dutch study found that coffee consumption was shown to reduce that buildup and allow the adequate blood flow to and from the heart. What we should note is that it is not actually the caffeine but the combo of the compounds and oils in coffee that breakdown the calcium and improve the circulation in the cardiovascular system. Those natural antioxidants work together with potassium, fiber and other minerals that provide positive effects. Yes, these can also be found in other sources but coffee consumption is the easiest and most effective way to digest them. 

Risks?

What about coffee consumption and high blood pressure? Dr. Fogoros states that if you’re a non-coffee drinker and ingest a big old cup of coffee, your blood pressure is likely to rise about 10 mm Hg. But, if you’re one of us who drink coffee on a regular basis, that acute ingestion of coffee is probably not going to raise your blood pressure. Now, don’t go crazy. Some people still may have that increase in blood pressure when they drink a lot of coffee. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you probably still want to steer clear of Java for a bit and monitor your blood pressure to see how or if coffee affects it. 

With that said, please keep in mind, there are always those who don’t exhibit the common behaviors to coffee consumption. There is also a fairly common genetic mutation that causes some to metabolize caffeine slowly. These folks may be at a higher risk of heart disease than others. Also, if you are one who has been diagnosed with high cholesterol it is important to note that coffee also contains a substance called cafestol that may increase your LDL cholesterol. Before you get discouraged, chronic ingestion of unfiltered coffee is what can increase your LDL. But guess what? Paper filters remove the lipid-active substance.  Moral of this story; consider drinking your coffee filtered.

Conclusion

Good, roasted coffee beans contain polyphenols, which as we learned above are a great source of antioxidants. Antioxidants work to deactivate those cell-damaging free radicals that put us at risk for heart disease.

Science now tells us that the risk of cardiovascular disease and/or heart failure is lowest at about 4 cups a day. My thought is that one to three cups a day of quality coffee is just right. Be sure you are buying quality roasted coffee beans, ground fresh, and perhaps even filtered via a pour over. Skip all the other junk that we too often put in that wonderful, fresh coffee, and enjoy it for what it is. If you do feel like you really need cream or the like, choose an alternative that is non-hydrogenated and has little to no added sugars. 

As always, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, please see your health care practitioner. This blog is just me, sharing some updated information on the benefits of excellent coffee. This is not your guide to blast yourself with caffeine. Be a smart coffee consumer, get enough exercise and love your heart enough to take care of it.

Contributed by Kathleen Poulin

Contributed by Kathleen Poulin

Kathleen Poulin is a retired cardiac nurse, and active ACE Certified Fitness Instructor. A lover of all things health and her rule #1 is to just move! She is also mom to four fabulous kids and a very fun Nana to their combined 7 children and 3 grand puppies. Her favorite Java Momma Roast is Sumatra Satin

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