For years, drinking coffee and caffeinated beverages in general was discouraged for anyone with a heart condition. The thinking was that since caffeine is a stimulant, it could cause irregular heartbeat and potentially, something worse.
However, that may not be the case. Coffee consumption may actually lower the risk of atrial fibrillation.
Looking at the coffee consumption of over 18,000 men who participated in the Physician’s Health Study (a long-term study examining health conditions, supplement use, and lifestyle factors), it appears that drinking one to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower risk of the condition.
The exact mechanism of action for this protective effect isn’t completely understood. It may be that coffee provides an easily and frequently consumed source of polyphenols that protect the heart and arteries. It may be that caffeine, in general, can have an anti-inflammatory effect overall. Either way, that morning cup of Joe can be a welcome part of a daily routine. It could be doing more good than we realize.
Bodar V, Chen J, Gaziano JM, Albert C, Djoussé L. Coffee Consumption and Risk of Atrial Fibrillation in the Physicians' Health Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019;8(15):e011346. doi:10.1161/JAHA.118.011346
Background: Although coffee consumption is often reported as a trigger for atrial fibrillation (AF) among patients with paroxysmal AF, prospective studies on the relation of coffee consumption with AF risk have been inconsistent. Hence, we sought to assess the association between coffee consumption and risk of AF in men.
Methods and Results: We prospectively studied men who participated in the Physicians' Health Study (N=18 960). Coffee consumption was assessed through self-reported food frequency questionnaires. The incidence of AF was assessed through annual questionnaires and validated through review of medical records in a subsample. Cox proportional hazard models were used to calculate hazard ratios and 95% CIs of AF. The average age was 66.1 years. A total of 2098 new cases of AF occurred during a mean follow-up of 9 years. Hazard ratios (95% CI) of AF were 1.0 (reference), 0.85 (0.71-1.02), 1.07 (0.88-1.30), 0.93 (0.74-1.17), 0.85 (0.74-0.98), 0.86 (0.76-0.97), and 0.96 (0.80-1.14) for coffee consumption of rarely/never, ≤1 cup/week, 2 to 4 cups/week, 5 to 6 cups/week, 1 cup/day, 2 to 3 cups/day, and 4+ cups/day, respectively; adjusting for age, smoking, alcohol intake, and exercise (P for nonlinear trend=0.01). In a secondary analysis the multivariable adjusted hazard ratio (95% CI) of AF per standard deviation (149-mg) change in caffeine intake was 0.97 (0.92-1.02).
Conclusions: Our data suggest a lower risk of AF among men who reported coffee consumption of 1 to 3 cups/day.
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