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  • Cameron Oglesby

What drinking coffee does to you – and for you

Healthwise, coffee’s reputation is, at best, mixed.

On the downside, early medical studies found that drinking coffee could spike blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline, as well as raising cholesterol levels – all of which are bad for the heart. It could trigger premature atrial and ventricular heart contractions, AKA palpitations. It could also make you jittery, and rob you of sleep.

But a new, more rigorous study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that drinking coffee could do much more for you than to you.

In the study, 100 men and women in San Francisco wore Fitbits, continuous glucose monitors, and heart rhythm track electrocardiogram devices 24/7. For two days, they’d drink as much coffee as they wanted, pressing a button every time they drank a cup, then abstain for two days, and then repeat the cycle for two weeks.

The results were a mixed, according to Dr. Gregory Marcus, an author of the study and professor of cardiology at the University of California at San Francisco. “The reality is that coffee is not all good or all bad,” he said. “There are real and measurable physiological effects that could —depending on the individual—be harmful or helpful.”

  • One thing the study found was that coffee drinking did not cause premature atrial contractions. But it did cause premature ventricular contractions (in the heart’s bottom chambers). Experiencing a lot of them could be an early warning of future heart failure.

  • Coffee does have an effect on your sleep. People in the study got 36 minutes’ less sleep when they hadn’t been drinking coffee than when they had.

  • It also made them more energetic. On coffee-drinking days they took 1,000 more steps a day, which is associated with a 6 to 15 percent reduction in mortality.

  • It lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

  • It can help protect people with fatty liver disease or alcohol use disorder against liver cirrhosis, and lowers the risks of liver and colorectal cancer.

  • The caffeine in coffee acts on your brain to improve your memory, your mood, your reaction times, and your mental function. It can even work on your emotions, lowering the risk of depression.

  • Coffee beans contain nutrients including B vitamins, potassium, and riboflavin. They’re rich in antioxidants ad contain phenols, both of which protect cells from damage and inflammation.

Your results may vary, though, depending on your genetic makeup, specifically whether you’re a fast or slow metabolizer. With a slow metabolism, caffeine stays in your system longer. This can lead to shorter sleeping time and higher blood pressure. And if heart failure runs in your family, it wouldn’t hurt to consider cutting back.

Overall, three to four cups of coffee a day are good for you. But, as Prof. Marcus notes, “There’s no one size fits all prescription or recommendation. It really depends on the individual.”

This echoes our guiding principle at Senior Insights. For senior care, as for so many factors in human wellbeing, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. It does really depend on the individual. That’s why the first thing we do with new clients and their families is conduct a thorough three-part assessment of their physical, cognitive, and psychosocial needs. That way, we can custom-design a holistic, comprehensive senior care management plan based on each client’s individual values, preferences, likes and dislikes, relationships with family and friends, activities, hobbies, and interests.

If you contact us, we’ll be happy to tell you more. Over a nice cup of coffee.

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