Coffee Can Reduce the Risk of Stroke

Coffee is one of the most frequently-consumed drinks throughout the world. For many, coffee is an enjoyable drink, a tasty beverage or a pick-me-up. But coffee is habit-forming and it can even be addictive!

Cup of fleshly brewed espresso with saucer and spoon on wooden table
Jorn Georg Tomter / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Well-wishing friends often advise heavy coffee drinkers to cut back. But, for years, people have wondered whether coffee is indeed harmful or whether it could be helpful when it comes to serious health conditions such as stroke.

Numerous scientific research studies have been designed to answer this question. And the news is pretty good for coffee drinkers.

Coffee Doesn't Cause Stroke

Several experiments have been aimed at determining whether coffee increases stroke risk. For you coffee lovers, the good news is that coffee has not been found to cause a stroke or to increase your risk of stroke if you are in good health, to begin with.

Because coffee contains caffeine, it can be dangerous for people with severe hypertension, heart disease or seizures. Coffee also has an impact on headache pain and can cause pain for some, while relieving pain for others. But, as far as your stroke risk, unless you have a health contraindication to caffeine, then you needn’t worry.

Coffee and Your Stroke Risk

The surprising result of all of these research experiments is that coffee is associated with a decreased stroke risk. Multiple research studies have shown that drinking between 2-4 cups of coffee per day is actually correlated with reduced stroke risk.

The physiological reason for this result is likely due to a combination of coffee's varied effects on the body. Coffee changes in blood vessel physiology and alters blood flow in ways that can help prevent hypertension.

Additionally, coffee’s effects can decrease the likelihood of harmful blood clots. Coffee might also reduce cholesterol levels. This cholesterol-reducing action is beneficial because high blood cholesterol increases the likelihood of having a stroke.

Coffee has been shown to contain a number of active components that have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are chemicals that have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke as well as to reduce the damage caused by a stroke.

Caffeine Pills

Despite the benefits of coffee, you still need to take it slow when it comes to your caffeine intake. Medications and pills that contain caffeine, one of the active ingredients found in coffee, have been associated with increased stroke risk.

Megadoses of caffeine — even those found in non-prescription over the counter caffeine pills and energy drinks — can cause a dangerous physical reaction called vasospasm. Vasospasm is the sudden closing off of blood vessels that can abruptly interrupt normal blood flow to the brain — causing an ischemic stroke or a hemorrhagic stroke.

Coffee Helps Stroke Survivors

The most surprising news is that coffee can also be beneficial for some patients who have already experienced a stroke. After a stroke, one of the most common problems is postural instability. This means a general feeling of wobbliness, dizziness or trouble with balance.

Most stroke survivors suffer from some degree of balance impairment because balance requires interaction between many regions of the brain. In one research experiment, stroke survivors who consumed caffeine, one of the components of coffee, did better on tests of postural balance that they had done prior to consuming caffeine.

This is probably because caffeine increases alertness by temporarily activating or ‘waking up’ certain areas of the brain, engaging the regions necessary for proper balance.

Moderation Is Key

Some common foods and drinks have been scientifically proven to help reduce your stroke risk. Moderation is always the key when it comes to wine, soy, and vitamins, all of which can help reduce your chances of stroke. But, in excess, any of these can increase your risk of stroke. The best news is that your coffee habit may actually be good for you!

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