ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Massage Therapy Helps Those With Advanced Cancer
Pain-Relieving Powers of Acupuncture Unclear
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
BONES & JOINTS
Fall Sports Peak Time for Lower Leg Damage
Cane Use May Cut Progression of Knee Osteoarthritis
High Birth Weight Doubles Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
CANCER
Gene Studies Reveal Cancer's Secrets
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
CAREGIVING
Hospital Volume Imperfect Gauge of Cancer Surgery Outcomes
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
Tiniest Babies Carry Biggest Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
COSMETIC
Wrinkle Fillers Need Better Label Warnings: FDA Panel
Science May Banish Bad Hair Days
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
A Sweet Way to Shield Baby's Teeth
DIABETES
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Fructose-Sweetened Drinks Up Metabolic Syndrome Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Antioxidants Abound in Cereals, Popcorn, Whole-Grain Snacks
Herb Shows Potential for Rheumatoid Arthriti
Folic Acid Might Offer Allergy Relief
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Where You Live May Affect Your Cancer Diagnosis
Gene Mutation May Cause Some Cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder
Improved Fungicides May Be Easier on Environment
EYE CARE, VISION
Unconscious Learning: In the Eye of the Beholder?
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Music Can Help Restore Stroke Patients' Sight
FITNESS
Any Exercise Good After a Heart Attack
School Phys. Ed. Injuries Up 150 Percent
Community Exercise Programs Boost Seniors' Strength
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Peppermint Oil, Fiber Can Fight Irritable Bowel
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Maximize Your Run
Eating More Soy May Be Good For Your Lung Function
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
A Little Chocolate May Do the Heart Good
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Vitamin B3 May Help Repair Brain After a Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Babies Who Eat Fish Lower Eczema Risk
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
Scorpion Anti-Venom Speeds Children's Recovery
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
MENTAL HEALTH
Environmental Chemicals May Affect Male Reproduction
Chocolate a Sweet Pick-Me-Up for the Depressed
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
SENIORS
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Omega-3 May Reduce Endometriosis Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
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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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