Questions patients ask

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a collective term used to describe conditions affecting the heart and circulation, including:

  • Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke

Cardiovascular disease is a main cause of death in Europe accounting for 45% of all deaths (52% of all deaths in women and 42% of all deaths in men) which equates to over 4 million deaths in Europe annually1,2. A 2016 review of the burden of CVD in Europe attributes CHD and cerebrovascular disease with 1.8 million and 1.1 million deaths, respectively1.

Lifestyles choices including poor dietary habits, smoking, significant alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity are associated with long-term adverse conditions such as diabetes, hyperlipidaemia and hypertension, which in turn can increase the risk of CVD3.

 

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It can be difficult to remain up-to-date with the latest health advice, and media reports of new medical studies can sometimes be more confusing than helpful.

Healthcare professionals play a vital role in informing and reassuring patients about cardiovascular disease, and may well be consulted as to how a popular beverage such as coffee can be consumed – as part of a healthy balanced diet. Below are some common questions asked by patients, with answers based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

Q: Is coffee bad for the heart?

A: No, research shows that drinking coffee is not associated with the development of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, heart attacks, irregular heart beat or high blood pressure.  In fact, there is some evidence to suggest that moderate coffee consumption (3-5 cups per day) may have a protective effect4,5.

Q: Should I stop drinking coffee to keep my heart healthy?

A: There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that abstaining from coffee has any direct benefits for general heart health. Research suggests that a moderate consumption of coffee (3-5 cups per day) may help to reduce the risk of heart problems4,5. People who have specific concerns or questions about their heart health should consult their doctor.

Q: Is coffee safe for people with heart problems?

A: Moderate coffee consumption at 3–5 cups per day is safe for many patients with heart problems. Anybody with specific concerns about their heart health should seek advice from their doctor.

Q: Is coffee associated with cardiovascular conditions such as stroke?

A: Some research has reviewed an association between coffee consumption and stroke, suggesting that a moderate intake of coffee (3-5 cups a day) may help to reduce the risk of stroke, particularly in women6,7. Further research into this area is required before a firm conclusion can be drawn.

Q: Can drinking coffee increase blood pressure

A: The effect of coffee consumption (as opposed to caffeine alone) on blood pressure is relatively small and regular coffee consumption is not considered to be a risk factor for raised blood pressure8. Coffee is a complex drink containing many compounds, such as antioxidants, soluble fibre and potassium, which may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.

Q: I’ve heard that people who drink coffee have higher cholesterol levels than those who do not, is this true?

A: The way in which coffee is prepared may have an effect on cholesterol levels. Drinking filtered coffee has not been linked to significant increases in cholesterol levels. However, the consumption of unfiltered coffee has been shown to increase blood levels of both total and LDL cholesterol. This is because the cholesterol-raising compounds in coffee are retained in the paper filter in filtered coffee9.

Q: Are the cholesterol-raising components found in all coffees?

A: The components in coffee that are thought to be responsible for increasing cholesterol are cafestol and kahweol. These are naturally-occurring compounds found in the oily part of coffee. They are found in varying amounts depending on the type of coffee. For example, filter coffee contains very little as they are retained in the paper filter9. In contrast, Scandinavian boiled coffee, Cafetière (or plunger pot), Greek and Turkish coffee contain higher levels of these compounds. Soluble coffee contains hardly any of the cholesterol-raising compounds, whilst espresso contains roughly half the amount of unfiltered coffee and, as it is served in small quantities, a moderate consumption of espresso coffee can be expected to have a negligible effect on serum cholesterol levels.

References 

  1. Townsend N. et al. (2016) Cardiovascular disease in Europe: epidemiological update 2016. Eur Heart J, published online ahead of print.
  2. European Heart Network, ‘European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2012’. Available at: http://www.ehnheart.org/cvd-statistics.html.
  3. Mozaffarian D. et al. (2008) Beyond established and novel risk factors: lifestyle risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Circulation, 117(23):3031-8.
  4. Ding M. et al (2014) Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation, 129(6):643-59.
  5. Crippa A. et al. (2014) Coffee consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: a dose-response meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol, 180(8):763-75.
  6. Lopez-Garcia E. et al. (2009) Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women. Circulation, 119:1116-1123.
  7. Kokubo Y. et al. (2013) The Impact of Green Tea and Coffee Consumption on the Reduced Risk of Stroke Incidence in Japanese Population: The Japan Public Health Center-Based Study Cohort. Stroke, 44(5):1369-74.
  8. Rhee J.J. et al. (2016) Coffee and Caffeine Consumption and the Risk of Hypertension in Postmenopausal Women. AJCN, 103(1):210-7.
  9. Jee S.H. et al. (2001) Coffee consumption and serum lipids: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Am J Epidemiol, 153:353-362.

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