February is American Heart Month. This celebration reminds us how important it is to make heart healthy lifestyle choices. Most of us are aware of certain things that are good for our hearts, such as quitting smoking, getting enough exercise, controlling stress, and choosing a healthy diet that is low in salt and cholesterol.
Yes, some of these lifestyle choices take quite a bit of effort and will power. But others can feel downright self-indulgent—and that includes drinking coffee.
During the past decade, the American Heart Association (AHA) has published several studies about the benefits of coffee drinking. In one study, experts from the Harvard School of Public Health noted that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee every day have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improved heart health isn’t the only way we benefit from drinking coffee and espresso. Other studies show coffee lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, digestive diseases and even the risk of suicide. Several studies show that coffee drinkers live longer.
Why is coffee so good for our hearts?
Caffeine, the most familiar substance found in coffee, can raise our energy level and alertness, which might help us remain more active. Studies also linked with a lower risk of dementia. But when it comes to heart health, anti-oxidants and other protective studies are probably the most important. Harvard study author Dr. Ming Ding suggested that these naturally occurring bioactive compounds benefit our hearts by reducing systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.
How much coffee is healthy and safe to drink?
Three to five cups per day is a safe amount, and more is probably OK, reports the AHA. Timing matters; for most of us, drinking coffee later in the day can disrupt our sleep, and that’s not good. Pregnant women should limit their intake, and coffee drinking is not recommended for children. And if you’re experiencing the familiar caffeine jitters, that’s most likely a sign that you should cut back.
One more note, before you put on your coat to run out for a triple mochaccino with whipped cream. Adding sugar and high-fat dairy products to coffee makes it a far less healthy beverage choice. A sprinkle of sugar and a couple tablespoons of half and half isn’t too bad, but some fancy coffee beverages with flavored syrups, whip cream or eggnog can have upwards of 500 calories! Count those as a dessert.
The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about a diet that is healthy for your heart.