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Study: Drinking coffee may lower women's risk of stroke

March 10, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Coffee is often made out to be bad for your heart, but the studies often conflict. Now a new study shows a daily dose of coffee may offer a perk.

Alanna Patlian, a busy mother of three, needs a java jolt to start her day.

"[I] kind of need it to keep my morning going," she said.

But she's always wondered about the health effects since heart disease and stroke run in her family. But the results of a large new Swedish study shows her brew has benefits. The study reveals women who drink coffee reduce their risk for stroke.

"I think that's awesome, I didn't know. I didn't know I was actually adding benefit to myself by drinking a cup of coffee," said Patlian.

After adjusting for other risk factors, such as smoking and diabetes, the authors of the study found that women who drank more than one cup of coffee per day had about a 25 percent less risk for stroke than the ones who drank less than one cup.

"It certainly doesn't seem to be the caffeine. Having caffeinated soda or caffeinated beverages of any other kind does not seem to help," said Dr. Daniel Goodwin, a cardiologist at Glendale Memorial Hospital. "But it might be something related to the antioxidant effect of some of the materials in coffee."

He suspects drinking tea would give you the same effect but based on previous studies, diet sodas and energy drinks would not. But coffee's protective benefits may get outweighed if you have other bad habits that contribute to stroke.

"So I think it's important to keep a certain amount of focus on the other risk factors that lead to stroke, including high blood pressure, tobacco use, cholesterol and obesity," said Dr. Goodwin.

He says you don't want to drink too much because other studies show several servings can raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Even though the study suggests women drink one cup or more daily, Dr. Goodwin advises women to keep it to one cup.

Experts say more research needs to be done to figure out why coffee may be cutting stroke risk. The theory is it could be reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, or as Dr. Goodwin says it could be the antioxidants in coffee.