Just 1 Cup of Coffee a Week May Lower Risk of Stroke & Heart Failure

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(Image credit: George Dolgikh/Shutterstock)

Drinking as little as one cup of coffee a week may lower your risk of stroke and heart failure, a new study suggests.

The researchers analyzed information from 2,750 people who partcipated in the long-running Framingham Heart Study, who were followed for up to 34 years. The study tracked what participants ate as well as their cardiovascular health.

The researchers found that, over the course of the ongoing study, every cup of coffee a person drank per week was linked with a 7 percent decrease in the risk of stroke, and an 8 percent decrease in the risk of heart failure, compared with people who didn't drink coffee. (Heart failure means the heart muscle can't pump enough blood to meet the body's normal demands.)

The study was presented today (Nov. 13) at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting in Anaheim, California. [10 Things You Need to Know About Coffee]

Several previous studies have suggested that drinking coffee, up to a certain amount, may lower the risk of heart disease, including heart failure.

But in contrast to previous work, the researchers in the new study didn't specifically start out with the hypothesis that coffee lowers the risk of heart failure and stroke. Instead, they used machine-learning techniques to identify patterns within a large data set. In this case, they looked for factors that predicted stroke and heart failure risk. Their analysis identified a number of well-known risk factors for heart failure and stroke, including age, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But coffee consumption also showed up as a significant predictor of stroke and heart failure.

The researchers say the methods used in this study could help identify other, yet-unknown risk factors for heart failure and stroke.

"Machine learning may be a useful addition to the way we look at data, and help us find new ways to lower the risk of heart failure and strokes," Dr. David Kao, senior author of the study and an assistant professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, Colorado, said in a statement.

The researchers also built a computer model to predict a person's risk of heart failure and stroke based on traditional risk factors, including blood pressure and age. When they included coffee consumption in the model, the prediction accuracy increased by 4 percent, the researchers said.

Still, the researchers noted that their study only found an association, and cannot prove a "cause and effect" relationship between coffee consumption and a lower risk of stroke and heart failure. The study also did not determine whether there is a limit to the amount of coffee consumed that's linked with a beneficial effect.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.