ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
New Insights Show Ginseng Fights Inflammation
Tai Chi: An Ideal Exercise for Many People with Diabetes
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Almost Half of Adults Will Develop Knee Osteoarthritis by 85
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
CANCER
Herb May Counter Liver Damage From Chemo
Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
Vitamin C Shows Promise as Cancer Treatment
CAREGIVING
Reduce Suffering, Urge Heart Failure Patients and Caregivers
Babies Born in High Pollen Months at Wheezing Risk
High Rate of Rehospitalizations Costing Billions
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Grapefruit-Heavy Diet Helped Spur Dangerous Clot
Smog Tougher on the Obese
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Acid Drinks Blamed for Increase in Tooth Erosion
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
DIABETES
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Laughter May Lower Heart Attack Risk in Diabetics
'Standard' Glucose Test May Be Wrong One for Obese Children
DIET, NUTRITION
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
Herb Shows Potential for Rheumatoid Arthriti
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Are Medical Meetings Environmentally Unfriendly?
Old-Growth Forests Dying Off in U.S. West
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
EYE CARE, VISION
High Temps Degrade Contact Lens Solution: Study
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
FITNESS
Exercise Keeps the Brain Young
Football Can Shrink Players
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
GENERAL HEALTH
Hidden Salt in Diet Haunts Many With Heart Failure
Winter's Bitter Cold Poses Health Dangers
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Fructose Boosts Blood Pressure, Studies Find
Ginkgo Won't Prevent Heart Attack, Stroke in Elderly
Laughter Can Boost Heart Health
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Sunlight May Help Protect Men From Kidney Cancer
Strenuous Daily Workout May Keep Cancer at Bay
MENTAL HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Psychotherapy Can Boost Happiness More Than Money
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Heart Defects in Newborns Linked to Antidepressants
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
SENIORS
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
Boost In Elderly Population Will Be Felt Worldwide
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Natural Oils Help Lower Body Fat For Some
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
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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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