Coffee and Heart Disease

Is it good or bad for you?

In the past, coffee was generally regarded as being "bad" for your heart. Coffee was said to raise blood pressure and cholesterol while increasing the risk of heart attack and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). Recent research has challenged those beliefs and, in fact, suggests that coffee may be good for your heart.

Prior studies often failed to take into account other factors that contribute to heart disease in coffee drinkers, such as obesity and smoking. When these factors are excluded, moderate coffee consumption often has little to no effect on a person's risk of heart disease. In some cases, drinking coffee significantly lowered the risk.

What to Know About Coffee and Your Heart

Nusha Ashjaee / Verywell

This article looks at the current evidence surrounding the impact coffee drinking has on heart health, including when coffee may reduce the risk of certain heart diseases.

Coffee and Blood Pressure

The effect that coffee has on blood pressure can vary by the drinker. Among non-coffee drinkers, the sudden exposure to caffeine can increase blood pressure by up to 10 mm Hg. However, in people who regularly drink coffee, the same amount of caffeine appears to have no effect.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that your body will quickly adapt to the effects of caffeine when you consume coffee on a regular basis. Not only will coffee be less likely to cause jitteriness, but its effect on blood pressure will gradually subside.

A 2021 review in Current Hypertension Report supported the findings, concluding that the moderate and habitual consumption of coffee (one to three cups) had no significant impact on a person's blood pressure. This includes people diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure).

Recap

The regular consumption of one to three cups of coffee per day appears to have no significant impact on a person's blood pressure, even those who have been diagnosed with hypertension.

Coffee and Arrhythmias

A long-held belief among consumers and health professionals alike is that coffee can trigger cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats) in people diagnosed with this chronic heart condition. The belief stems from the fact that people have been known to experience palpitations (skipped heartbeats) when drinking coffee.

To date, there has been little evidence that coffee can trigger cardiac arrhythmia. Indeed, a study from Kaiser Permanente suggested that people who drink four cups of coffee per day have significantly fewer cardiac arrhythmias as well as a lower risk of atrial fibrillation (irregular, rapid heartbeats).

Recap

Despite popular belief, there is no evidence that coffee can trigger cardiac arrhythmia. In fact, coffee may reduce the risk of cardiac arrhythmia and a related disorder known as atrial fibrillation.

Coffee and Stroke

Due to the outdated belief that coffee causes high blood pressure, people at risk of stroke have long been advised to avoid coffee. That piece of advice may also be outdated.

A 2014 review published in the journal Circulation failed to show any increase in the risk of stroke among almost 500,000 coffee drinkers included in the analysis. In fact, people who drank three cups of coffee per day had a slightly lower risk of stroke compared to those who drank no coffee.

A 2013 study from Japan similarly found that people who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a 20% reduction in their risk of stroke over a 13-year period.

Recap

Studies suggest that coffee may have a protective effect on people at risk of stroke when consumed in moderation (1 to 3 cups per day).

Coffee and Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a form of heart disease caused by the buildup of fatty deposits on the walls of arteries. These deposits, called plaque, are composed of cholesterol and other substances that can lead to a condition known as atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries"). Hypertension and high cholesterol both contribute to atherosclerosis and CAD.

Because coffee can increase cholesterol levels, it is thought that coffee may increase the risk of CAD. To date, there is little evidence of this.

A 2014 review published in Circulation reported that higher intakes of coffee translated to a lower risk of CAD. According to the study, which included over 1,275,000 participants, people who drank one to three cups of coffee per day had a 5% lower risk of CAD compared to non-drinkers. When the intake was increased to three to five cups per day, the risk of CAD dropped by 15%.

In terms of coffee's effect on blood cholesterol, unfiltered coffees (like French press and Turkish coffees) may increase "bad" LDL cholesterol levels in heavy drinkers. On the other hand, coffee also increases "good" HDL cholesterol levels and decreases triglyceride levels—both of which translate to a lower risk of heart disease.

Paper-filtered coffee has no effect on blood cholesterol levels. With that said, adding cream or sugar to your coffee can cancel out those benefits.

Recap

Coffee may have a protective effect against coronary artery disease (CAD). Some studies suggest that higher intakes of coffee translate to a lower risk of CAD.

Coffee and Heart Failure

Coffee may also benefit people with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is less able to effectively pump blood throughout the body.

A 2021 review of three well-known trials concluded that the more coffee people drank, the lower their risk of heart failure. Compared to people who drank no coffee, those who did experienced a 5% to 12% drop in the risk of heart failure after one 8-ounce cup of coffee. After two cups, the risk dropped by 30%.

The study, published in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure, reported that drinking decaffeinated coffee had the opposite effect, increasing the overall risk of heart disease.

Recap

Some studies suggest that drinking coffee reduces the risk of heart failure compared to people who don't drink coffee. On the other hand, drinking decaffeinated coffee appears to increase the risk.

Summary

Coffee has long been demonized as being "bad" for your heart health. Recent studies suggest this may not be true and that coffee can reduce the risk of certain types of heart disease, such as heart failure and coronary artery disease.

Despite claims to the contrary, coffee does not cause high blood pressure or trigger cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats). Coffee may, in fact, be protective against diseases like stroke, atrial fibrillation, and atherosclerosis.

Studies vary on how much coffee is beneficial, but most endorse moderated consumption (one to three cups per day).

A Word From Verywell

While coffee may be safe for people with heart disease when consumed in moderation, not everyone reacts to caffeine in the same way. Some people are known to have caffeine sensitivity and may experience palpitations with even a tiny sip of coffee. Older people are especially vulnerable, as are people who are pregnant or taking oral contraceptives.

If you experience palpitations while drinking coffee, it may be that you are sensitive to caffeine and may need to find a non-caffeinated alternative.

If you are at risk of heart disease, coffee should not be pursued as a form of "treatment." It is neither a substitute for any medication you may be prescribed nor an alternative to diet, exercise, and other proven methods of heart disease prevention.

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11 Sources
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