ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Air Pollution May Raise Blood Pressure
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Awareness of Alternative Therapies May Be Lacking
Acupuncture May Trigger Natural Painkiller
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Arthritis Hits More Than Half of Diabetics
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
Get in Step With Summer Foot Care
CANCER
Vitamin E, Selenium and Soy Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer
To Quit Smoking, Try Logging On
Herb May Counter Liver Damage From Chemo
CAREGIVING
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Medication Errors Could Be Cut: Experts
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as Deadly as Ever
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
An Apple a Day May Help Keep Heart Disease Away
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
Vitamins Do Older Women Little Good
COSMETIC
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
Holistic Dentistry-My View
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Fish Twice a Week Cuts Diabetics' Kidney Risks
Americans Consuming More Sugary Beverages
DIET, NUTRITION
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
Soluble Fiber, But Not Bran, Soothes Irritable Bowel
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Flame-Retardant Chemical Linked to Conception Problems
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Air Quality Better in Northeast, Midwest
EYE CARE, VISION
Decorative Halloween Eye Lenses May Pose Serious Risks
Diabetic Eye Disease Rates Soaring
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
FITNESS
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Avoiding a Holiday Season of Discontent
Weak Muscles May Cause 'Runner's Knee'
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Go To Work But Skip The Car
Parents Influence Sex Decisions, Hispanic Teens Say
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Save Your Aging Brain, Try Surfing The Web
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Soy Protein Doesn't Lower Cholesterol
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
When It Comes to Toys, Shop Smart, Shop Safe
Meaningful Conversations Boost Kids' Language Skills
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
MEN'S HEALTH
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
Countdown to Hair Loss
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
MENTAL HEALTH
Love Hormone May Ease Discussion of Painful Topics
Optimism May Boost Immune System
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Prenatal Stress May Boost Baby's Asthma Risk
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
SENIORS
The Healthy Habits of Centenarians
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Lose Weight, Sleep Apnea May Improve
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Exercise During Pregnancy Keeps Newborn Size Normal
Vitamin D Deficiency Puts 40% of U.S. Infants and Toddlers At 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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