ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Acupuncture May Not Help Hot Flashes
Yoga May Bring Calm to Breast Cancer Treatment
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Fall Sports Peak Time for Lower Leg Damage
Gene Therapy May Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis
Soccer's a Winner for Building Bone Health in Girls
CANCER
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
Vitamin D Good for Breast Cancer Patients
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Dental Implants Need More Work Than Root Canals
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
DIABETES
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Functional Foods Uncovered
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
Mediterranean Diet May Help Prevent Depression
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Vest Monitors 'Individual' Air Pollution
Sunken, Unexploded Bombs Pose Cancer Risk
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
EYE CARE, VISION
Sports Eye Injuries Leading Cause of Blindness in Youths
Omega-3 Foods May Lower Eye Disease Risk
Stem Cells Repair Damaged Corneas in Mice
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Daily Exercise at School Yields Rewards
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Traditional Nonsurgical GERD Treatments Not Impressive
GENERAL HEALTH
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
Ginkgo Won't Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Elderly
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Poor Restroom Cleaning Causes Cruise-Ship Sickness
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
School Meals Need to Get Healthier
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
Quick Orthopedic Repair Can Save Young Shoulders
MEN'S HEALTH
Drinking Green Tea May Slow Prostate Cancer
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Green Spaces Boost the Body and the Mind
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
Optimism May Boost Immune System
PAIN
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Calcium Supplements Cut Blood Lead Levels During Pregnancy
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Frankincense Provides Relief for Osteoarthritis
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
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Coffee Drinking Lowers Women's Stroke Risk

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Drinking coffee appears to lower the risk for stroke among women, with more consumption translating into more protection, Spanish and American researchers suggest.

The finding stems from the tracking of both coffee habits and stroke occurrence among tens of thousands of American women across nearly a quarter century. And it adds to earlier indications that coffee might also offer some protection against diabetes, while not raising the risk for heart trouble.

However, the current evidence also includes a cautionary note for smokers: Their habit seems to wipe out whatever protection long-term coffee drinking might otherwise confer.

"Many people have been very concerned that coffee might actually be a risk factor for stroke, that it might, in fact, increase the risk of stroke," said the study's co-author, Rob M. van Dam, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, in Boston. "But here we saw that it might end up being beneficial rather than detrimental."

The findings were released Monday for the March 3 issue of Circulation.

To explore possible links between coffee drinking and stroke risk among women, the authors analyzed data on more than 83,000 women, who averaged about 55 years old and had participated in the Nurses' Health Study between 1980 and 2004. At the start of the study, none of the women had a history of stroke, heart disease, diabetes or cancer.

Based on the women's answers on seven food-habit surveys administered during the study, the researchers found that 84 percent of the women consumed at least some caffeinated coffee. As well, half said they drank decaffeinated coffee, 78 percent drank tea and 54 percent drank caffeinated sodas.

During the study's 24-year span, nearly 2,300 strokes occurred. More than half were ischemic strokes, which follow blood vessel blockage.

Coffee drinking was not linked to either the lowering or the raising of stroke risk among women who developed high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.

But after considering factors such as cigarette and alcohol consumption, van Dam and his colleagues found that healthy women who consumed two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day had, on average, a 19 percent lower risk for any kind of stroke than did women who drank less than one cup a month. Drinking four or more cups a day lowered risk by 20 percent.

Women who drank five to seven cups of coffee a week were 12 percent less likely to have a stroke than were those who downed just one cup a month, the study found.

The team then zeroed in on the impact tobacco might have on the coffee-stroke link, noting that coffee drinkers are often also smokers.

What they found was striking: Among women who never smoked or had smoked but quit, drinking four or more cups of coffee a day conferred a 43 percent reduced risk for all types of stroke. However, among women with similar coffee habits who also smoked, stroke risk fell by just 3 percent.

It remains unclear what specific aspect of coffee plays the principal role in stroke risk reduction. However, the researchers noted that caffeinated tea and soft drinks carried no similar benefit -- implying that some other component in coffee, apart from caffeine, might provide the protective effect.

Whatever the case, the study authors pointed out that certain conditions -- such as insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure and cardiac complications -- can be negatively affected by coffee drinking.

They further cautioned that the current findings need confirmation with continued research.

"This is quite an early finding," van Dam said. "And previous studies have been quite small. But the data we do have is very convincing in the sense that we feel comfortable that we definitely found no association between high coffee consumption and a higher stroke risk. So women can continue to enjoy their coffee and focus on other things to reduce stroke risk, such as engaging in more physical activity, reducing salt intake and stopping smoking."

Dr. Anthony Comerota, director of the Jobst Vascular Center at Toledo Hospital in Ohio, described the degree of benefit as "somewhat surprising."

"But what is not surprising," he said, "is the deleterious impact of cigarette smoking, which we know is the most potent risk factor -- perhaps other than diabetes -- for heart attack and stroke and general cardiovascular-related risk among both men and women."

Comerota suggested that future research should explore physical activity patterns among coffee drinkers and nondrinkers. "There may be behavior patterns which link increased physical activity with coffee drinking," he said, "and we know the more physical activity one has, the better cardiovascular risk reduction that person enjoys."

Another large study appearing in the same issue of Circulation offered insight into the impact of diet on stroke risk. It noted that American women who closely follow a traditional Mediterranean diet (high in monounsaturated fats, plant-based proteins, whole grains and fish) have a much lower risk for both heart disease and stroke.

As with van Dam's research, this study -- led by Teresa T. Fung of Simmons College and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston -- was also based on analysis of participants in the Nurses' Health Study, nearly 75,000 of whom were tracked for two decades to see how their dietary habits stacked up against their incidence of both stroke and heart attack.

More information

For more on diet and heart health, visit American Heart Association.



SOURCES: Rob M. van Dam, Ph.D., assistant professor, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston; Anthony Comerota, M.D., director, Jobst Vascular Center, Toledo Hospital, Toledo, Ohio, and professor, surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.; March 3, 2009, Circulation

Last Updated: Feb. 16, 2009

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