H.eart & B.lood
Coffee may cause heart attack
By Ben Wasserman
Aug 16, 2006, 19:11

Any cup of coffee can be your last one as it may cause a heart attack in some people within an hour of drinking it, a new epidemiologic study suggests.

Researchers of the study reported in the journal Epidemiology said the risk of heart attack was highest among those who drank coffee lightly or occasionally.

Coffee can also be most highly risky for those with a sedentary lifestyle or other risk factors for coronary heart disease, according to the study.

Ana Baylin of Brown University and her colleagues of Harvard School of Public Health surveyed 503 participants who had experienced non-fatal myocardial infarction in Costa Rica about their coffee consumption in the hours and days before their heart attack.

To examine the association between coffee consumption and heart attack, researchers also considered the participants' socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle, and medical history.

The moderate coffee drinkers, who by definition had a cup of coffee, increased their risk of having a heart attack by 60 percent.

Interestingly, no significant association between coffee consumption and heart attack was found among heavy coffee drinkers, the study found. Among the light coffee drinkers, the risk of heart attack was four times higher.

The study authors theorized that caffeine causes short-term increases in blood pressure and sympathetic nervous activity that could affect a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque, and trigger a heart attack.

In explaining the association between the elevated heart attack risk and light coffee drinking, Baylin and colleagues suggested lighter drinkers are less acclimated to the effects of caffeine.

They also found that coffee drinkers with three or more risk factors for coronary heart disease more than doubled their risk of heart attack.

"People at high risk for a heart attack who are occasional or regular coffee drinkers might consider quitting coffee altogether," said Baylin.

For these individuals, a cup of coffee could be "the straw that broke the camel's back," Baylin added.

Earlier studies found an association between coffee drinking and some health benefits. Such a link is often attributed to the antioxidant's properties of coffee.

Adverse-effect of coffee consumption has been documented earlier, largely due to the presence of caffeine, a strong stimulant. But the current study addressed the immediate impact of coffee on the heart health.

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