After a heart attack, you might worry that your coffee habit could put your heart health at risk. But before you throw out your favorite java beans, check out these facts about coffee and your ticker.
After a Heart Attack
During your recovery, you'll receive a lot of information from your medical team, with well-meaning family and friends also likely to chime in. It can be a lot to process, especially considering the life-altering event you've just been through. Use a note-writing app on your phone or keep a small notepad with you so that you can jot down the advice and questions or concerns as they come.
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If you notice a change in how you feel after a certain activity or after consuming specific foods and beverages, including coffee, note it. "There is no direct risk of coffee in moderation prior to or after a heart attack," says Jeffrey H. Johnson, MD, a cardiologist at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. But it is possible that coffee could affect you differently than it did before the heart attack, depending on medications you're taking or activities you choose to do and how you metabolize the coffee.
By keeping notes, you will be in the right position to discuss concerns when you meet with your doctor. This will help you and your medical team identify any potential changes you can make to help you to feel your best.
Why Coffee May Benefit Your Heart
Yes, coffee contains caffeine, a central nervous system stimulant. But that doesn't necessarily make it off limits. Coffee is a great source of antioxidants, substances that protect healthy cells from damage that can lead to heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
According to a May 2018 review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, regular coffee drinkers — those who consume three to five cups a day — have a 15 percent lower risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than people who don't drink coffee. What's more, regular coffee drinkers who've experienced a CVD event do not have an increased risk for a repeat episode or death.
Other Coffee Considerations
The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry report also stated that people with uncontrolled blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, should not consume large doses of coffee. For them, the temporary but dramatic spike in blood pressure caused by caffeine could be unsafe.
How you take your coffee matters, too, says the AHA. Because maintaining a healthy weight is part of any heart-health plan, you want to avoid taking in excess (and empty) calories in the form of sugar and creamers. Remember that any weight gain from too many calories can have a negative impact on heart health.
Also, your coffee brewing method may affect your cholesterol. According to the AHA, unfiltered coffee, such as the type made with a French press, may not be as healthy as coffee that is brewed using paper filters. The reason is that filters remove cafestol, a compound known to increase low-density lipoprotein ( also known as LDL), the bad type of cholesterol.
Read more: The 9 Best Cholesterol-Lowering Foods
Can I Drink Coffee After a Heart Attack?
The bottom line: Communicate with your medical team and listen to your body. If something feels different when you drink coffee or, conversely, when you avoid coffee, pay attention to those signals.
Scientists don't know exactly how much caffeine is too much because there simply is not enough research on the effects of caffeine beyond 600 milligrams a day, but that's still six cups' worth. The FDA says 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or roughly four to five cups, is considered a safe amount for most healthy adults.
An October 2017 report in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology outlines what we do know: with moderate intake, any cardiovascular effects are usually mild and temporary, with no lasting negative effects and no association with cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia or heart failure. However, always follow the advice of your cardiac team because your health circumstances are unique to you.
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: “Coffee Consumption and Cardiovascular Disease: A Condensed Review of Epidemiological Evidence and Mechanisms”
- Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology: “Caffeine and Cardiovascular Health”
- American Heart Association: “Is Coffee Good for You or Not?”
- FDA: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.