Coffee Cuts Stroke Risk in Women

Biggest Benefit Seen in Women Drinking 4 or More Cups of Coffee a Day

By Caroline Wilbert

WebMD Health News

Reviewed By
Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC

Feb. 16, 2009 — Coffee addicts: Your habit may actually be good for
you.

Regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of stroke in women, according to
a new study. The study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American
Heart Association
, shows that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a
day had a 20% reduced risk of stroke compared to women who had less than one
cup per month. Drinking two to three cups per day reduced risk by 19%. Drinking
a cup five to seven times a week reduced risk by 12%.

Researchers analyzed data on 83,076 women who participated in the Nurses’
Health Study. Participants began the study in 1980 with no history of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. Every two to four years, the women filled
out food frequency questionnaires about their diets. During the study, which
lasted 24 years, 2,280 strokes were documented.

The benefits of coffee are much more significant for nonsmokers. For women
who had never smoked or quit the habit, drinking four cups or more of coffee a
day was associated with a 43% reduction in stroke risk. For women who smoked,
drinking four cups or more was associated with only a 3% reduction in risk.

“The potential benefits of coffee cannot counterbalance the detrimental
effects smoking has on health,” Esther Lopez-Garcia, lead author of the study
and assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Universidad Autonoma de
Madrid, Spain, says in a news release.

In addition to smoking, having high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol also neutralized the coffee effect.

The benefits do not appear to come from caffeine. Participants who drank tea
and caffeinated soft drinks did not experience the same reduction in stroke
risk. “This finding supports the hypothesis that components in coffee other
than caffeine may be responsible for the potential beneficial effect of coffee
on stroke risk,” Lopez-Garcia says. “Antioxidants in coffee lower inflammation
and improve blood vessel function.

“The beneficial effects of coffee can only be applied to healthy
people,” she says. “Anyone with health problems that can be worsened by
coffee (insomnia, anxiety, hypertension, or heart problems) should talk to
their doctor about their specific risk.”

And the data suggest that women still need to pay attention to any stroke
risk factors they may have. Drinking coffee will not make those risk factors go
away.

SOURCES: Lopez-Garcia, E., Circulation: Journal of the American Heart
Association
, Feb. 17, 2009; vol 119. News release, American Heart Association.

©2009 WebMD, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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