Coffee and High Blood Pressure ---
Is There a Connection?
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May 4, 2010, last updated  June 10, 2012
By  Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist






Millions of us suffer from high blood pressure – according to
the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute at the National
Institutes of Health, 50 million Americans fall in the at-risk
category. We also like our daily coffee
hit – this comforting
caffeinated drink is one of the most popular choices in
America. You recognize the feeling when you’ve had one too
many – that jittery, heart-racing sensation that seems to
send your blood pressure through the roof. Scientists have
noticed it too, and carried out studies into the effects of
coffee on high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined by the
National Institutes of Health as 140/90 mmHg or above each
time it is taken. The health risks of high blood pressure are
well documented. High blood pressure, suffered over a long
period of time, damages your arteries and puts a huge strain
on your heart. This strain can lead to heart disease and
stroke. Freshly-brewed coffee puts a smile on your face and
a spring in your step. But does coffee have an effect on your
high blood pressure? Could coffee be harming your heart?
What’s the verdict – if you have high blood pressure should
you drink coffee?  

Does Coffee Raise Your Blood Pressure?

According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine can cause a brief but
steep increase in blood pressure.

Does it matter how much you drink? Mayo Clinic says two to
three cups of coffee pushes systolic pressure up by 3 to 14
mm Hg and diastolic pressure up by 4 to 13 mm Hg. In
further research to link heavy doses of coffee with high
blood pressure, a 1998 study from Duke University found
four to five cups of coffee raised blood pressure by an
average of five points – and that the increase remained
throughout the day. The 19 people studied were habitual
coffee drinkers and wore blood pressure monitors as they
carried out their normal daily activities. If they drank just
one cup, blood pressure stayed more stable.

What’s unclear is whether coffee causes a temporary spike in
blood pressure or if the effects last longer than a day. Does
blood pressure return to its normal level once the coffee is
out of your system? A 2010 study from the University of
Maryland found coffee resulted in small to moderate
increases in blood pressure but the effect was short-lived.
Habitual coffee drinking was not linked to a long-term
increase in blood pressure.

Does Coffee Help Protect Against High Blood Pressure?


























Before you hide the coffee maker, take a look at the other
side of the story.

Moderate coffee intake may be a weapon in blood pressure’s
favor. In fact, one study claims coffee can combat high blood
pressure by increasing the flexibility --called elasticity --of
your blood vessels.

A 2010 research study from the University of Athens found
older people with high blood pressure who drink one to two
cups of coffee each day have
better blood vessel elasticity
than those that drink less coffee or more coffee.

Blood vessel elasticity is a good thing because stiffer blood
vessels may increase the risk of high blood pressure. The
study looked at 485 men and women aged 65 to 100 on the
small island of Ikaria in the Aegean Sea. Those drinking one
or two cups a day had around 25 percent greater blood
vessel elasticity than those who drank less coffee or none at
all, but it was also greater than people who consumed more
than three cups a day.

Be careful – the coffee in the study was traditional Greek
coffee served in small, espresso-sized cups. While Greek
coffee is much stronger than espresso, there’s also
considerably less of the coffee than in the take-out buckets
we Americans often call on throughout the day. And the
surroundings may affect the study too – participants on the
Greek island drank their coffee in a relaxed atmosphere, with
friends and family chatting over the day’s events, not on the
run between appointments with half a dozen things to do
before the last dregs are drunk.

The problem with this latest study from the University of
Athens study is that it almost stands alone. There are
numerous studies that have reached the opposite conclusion
--that drinking coffee stiffens your arteries and drives up
your blood pressure. For example, a 2005 study, also from
the University of Athens in Greece found concluded that
"
Chronic coffee consumption exerts a detrimental effect on
aortic stiffness and wave reflections, which may increase the
risk of cardiovascular disease
."  The question clearly needs
more research before we can understand the connection
between coffee and arterial stiffening. (Read more about
natural remedies for stiff arteries.)

Can more coffee be better than less?

Research has shown that people who regularly knock back a
lot of coffee develop a tolerance. As a consequence their
blood pressure doesn’t head skywards when they indulge in
their favorite drink. A review of evidence on coffee
consumption in relation to blood pressure (2008 from
Wageningen University, The Netherlands) found a U-shape
association - high coffee intake offered a positive protective
blood pressure effect (mainly on women) while drinking no
coffee offered a similar protective effect. Other studies claim
drinking no coffee may be worse than drinking a moderate
amount. A 1990 study from the University of Milan, Italy
found office managers and employees who drank coffee had
lower blood pressure than those who skipped the drink.
What’s more, blood pressure levels decreased as coffee
intake rose – blood pressure was highest in non-coffee
drinkers and lowest in people knocking back five or more
cups a day.

What’s the verdict – is coffee bad for my blood pressure or
not?

In the 2010 University of Maryland study the rise in blood
pressure depended on sex – men not women experienced a
rise in blood pressure when drinking a greater amount of
coffee – and age. Men over 70, particularly obese older men,
had steeper rises in blood pressure following their coffee
intake. To make matters more confusing, a 2005 review of
clinical trials on coffee from Wageningen University, The
Netherlands found that while caffeine raised blood pressure,
when the caffeine came from coffee the effects were very
small – in effect, caffeine raises blood pressure but coffee
does not.

As you can see, medical evidence is far from conclusive
about coffee’s effect on high blood pressure. If you have
high blood pressure, Mayo Clinic recommends you limit the
amount of caffeine you drink to around 200mg a day, about
two 12-ounce cups of brewed coffee. But be careful – the
caffeine content of coffee varies wildly between brands and
you may be drinking more than you think. According to a
University of Florida College of Medicine survey, the
strongest specialty coffee brew contains twice as much
caffeine as the weakest. Even decaffeinated coffee is not
squeaky clean – seven decaffeinated coffees in the survey
contained small amounts of caffeine.

Must you live with the uncertainty if you suffer from high
blood pressure? While the medical and scientific jury remains
out, the simplest thing you can do is check. Take your blood
pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a cup of coffee. If
your blood pressure heads upwards by five to 10 points,
take note of the connection and reduce your intake.






You're just getting started. Learn more about the
relationship between your diet and your risk for other
diseases and conditions:
Does Drinking Coffee Affect
Diabetes? / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics /
Foods That Lower Cholesterol / Foods That Keep Blood
Sugar Lower / Ideal Diet to Reduce Fibroid Tumors / Pelvic
Cancer-Symptoms and Treatments /How to Lose Weight
After Menopause/Best Breakfast to Fight Arthritis/ Health
Dangers of Milk / Lose Weight by Lowering Thermostat /
Lose Belly Fat After the Baby/ Foods That Shrink Your
Waist/ Drinking Cold Water Burns Calories / Six Pack Abs-A
Guided Tour /Top 10 Foods That Fight Anemia / How Much
Is Too Much Salt? /Sugar-The Disease Connection / Are Diet
Sodas Bad for Your Health? / Ideal Breakfast for Diabetics /
Ideal Breakfast for Arthritis /Healing Foods Links /  Foods
That Shrink Your Waist / Foods That Lower Cholesterol/
VLDL-
The Other Cholesterol/ Foods That Reduce Blood
Pressure

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Does that delicious cup of coffee raise your blood pressure?