Some studies tout miraculous benefits of drinking your favorite cup of joe. Others warn about the dangers of consuming even small amounts of caffeine. Anyone with less than stellar cardiac health might want to think twice before sipping a second -- or a fourth -- cup of the day, but giving it up completely might not be necessary.
The Risk: Hypertension
Studies testing physiological responses to caffeine have demonstrated that it can increase blood pressure. Those who saw the biggest increase were those already diagnosed with hypertension; however, healthy individuals also experienced elevated blood pressure. Blood pressure was elevated at both 20 and 60 minutes after 260 milligrams of caffeine was consumed. This would be equal to drinking 1 to 2 cups of coffee.
The Benefit: Decreased Stroke Risk
According to a study of more than 83,000 women described in a 2009 issue of "Circulation," long-term coffee consumption does not increase the risk of stroke, as previously thought, and actually may moderately reduce the risk of stroke. Another study published in 2008, involving 26,000 men, found that those with the highest coffee consumption, 8 or more cups daily, were less likely to experience a cardiovascular incident than noncoffee drinkers.
Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect cells from the damage. This damage can set the stage for some heart conditions. Chris Kilham, a University of Massachusetts, Amherst, professor, explains, "Most Americans do not eat enough antioxidant-rich fresh fruits and vegetables, but they do drink coffee. He adds that, "Coffee protects your body. This is a good thing."
Making Your Best Choice
Black coffee was used in all of the studies that showed benefits. It's unknown how adding cream, sugar, artificial sweeteners, plant-based sweeteners, flavor shots or other coffee additives might influence results. Because drinking coffee has been shown to both increase blood pressure and decrease risk for stroke and other diseases, it's worth asking your doctor if there is any reason you should nix your caffeine fix.