Matt Pitcher is a Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT)
If you suffer from Cardiovascular Disease (CVD or coronary heart disease) and/or fear you might some day due to high blood pressure, is your coffee consumption compounding the problem? Or, are there other things you can do to alleviate your high blood pressure and CVD concerns that do NOT include ending, or severely lessening, your coffee intake? This article explores reliable answers to those questions.
Can Coffee Contribute to Coronary Heart Disease?
CVD is the number one cause of death in America and high blood pressure is one of its biggest red flags. CVD has been the subject of extensive medical and scientific research for several decades. While researchers have differed in their conclusions over time, new evidence reported in The American Journal of Epidemiology in 1999 strongly indicates that consumption of coffee and caffeine does not contribute to CVD, finding neither caffeinated nor decaffeinated coffee associated with the risk of stroke-even for those drinking more than four cups of coffee a day.
Warren G. Thompson, M.D., noted in a 1994 literature review published in The American Journal of Medical Sciences, that: “The largest and better studies suggest that coffee is not a major risk factor for coronary disease.”
Willet et. al, in a prospective study reported in the February 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), examined data collected from more than 85,000 women over a 10-year period. After adjusting for known risk factors, the authors found no evidence for any positive association between coffee consumption and risk of CVD for women consuming six or more cups of coffee a day.
A 1990 New England Journal of Medicine study of more than 45,000 men found no link between coffee, caffeine and CVD for those drinking four or more cups of coffee a day.
These results confirm findings from the earlier Framingham Heart Study of more than 6,000 adults conducted over 20 years (as published in the Archives of Internal Medicine) and two 1987 studies using data from the Honolulu Heart Program (published in The New England Journal of Medicine and The American Journal of Epidemiology respectively).
Does Coffee/Caffeine Consumption Contribute to High Blood Pressure?
Despite previous controversy on the subject, most researchers now conclude that regular coffee and caffeine use has little or no effect on blood pressure.
Studies reviewed in the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases indicate that while first-time caffeine use may produce immediate, minimal changes in blood pressure, these changes are transient. No changes in blood pressure appear to occur in regular users of caffeine. A 1991 study published in the British Medical Journal reached the same conclusion and indicated that restricting caffeine did not reduce blood pressure in people with mild hypertension. A number of studies that have looked at people with normal blood pressure (published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Journal of Nutrition) have concluded that caffeine does not contribute to hypertension.
In 1997, the Sixth Report of the National Institutes of Health’s Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure concluded that, “no direct relationship between caffeine intake and elevated blood pressure has been found in most epidemiologic surveys.”
I think it’s safe to conclude that enough reliable evidence exists that can put to rest the claim that coffee/caffeine contributes to high blood pressure and even CVD.
What’s the Better Alternative than Retiring Your Coffee Mug?
As a certified fitness trainer, I’ve learned that one of the most effective ways to counteract high blood pressure and the onset of CVD is to be physically active, NOT – as the studies above prove – eliminate caffeine consumption. In fact, as my caffeine and fitness article explains, caffeine can even help you become more fit.
An American Heart Association study, as referenced by several peer-reviewed scientific and medical publications, has recently claimed that people who are physically active have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure — 20%-50% lower — than people who are not active.
Besides losing weight, there are other reasons to exercise: Being physically active can reduce your risk for heart disease, help lower your total cholesterol level and raise HDL-cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol that does not build up in the arteries), and help lower high blood pressure. And, again, people who are physically active have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure — 20 to 50 percent lower — than people who are not active.
More vigorous exercise has added benefits. It helps improve the fitness of the heart and lungs. And that in turn protects you more against heart disease and high blood pressure. Activities like swimming, brisk walking, running, and jumping rope are called “aerobic.” This means that the body uses oxygen to make the energy it needs for the activity. Aerobic activities can condition your heart and lungs if done at the right intensity for 30 minutes, three to four times a week. But if you don’t have 30 minutes for a break, try to find two 15-minute periods or even three 10-minute periods. Try to do some type of aerobic activity in the course of a week. And, since stress is also a major CAUSE of high blood pressure, exercise can even help lower stress levels as well.
Most people don’t need to see a doctor before they start exercising, since a gradual, sensible exercise program has few health risks. But if you have a health problem like high blood pressure; if you have pains or pressure in the chest or shoulder area; if you tend to feel dizzy or faint; if you get very breathless after a mild workout; or are middle-age or older and have not been active, and you are planning a vigorous exercise program, you should check with your doctor first. Otherwise, drink your coffee, get out, get active, and get fit — and help prevent high blood pressure and CVD.
Coffee consumption does not contribute to high blood pressure and CVD. Retiring your coffee mug is not going to help you reduce your risks. Exercising, however, will. So, go ahead and drink your coffee – especially before your next workout!
Editor Note: For a contrary view, read Blood Pressure and Coffee by Chris Arnold
The Blood Pressure Cure: 8 Weeks to Lower Blood Pressure without Prescription Drugs by Robert E. Kowalski