YOUR PATIENTS can enjoy that extra cup of coffee, especially if they’re over 40. A pair of recent studies link heavy coffee consumption to cardiovascular (CV) health in older people.

Researchers at Brooklyn College in New York found the more caffeine people older than 65 consumed, the less likely they were to die of CVD. And investigators in the Netherlands found that coffee appears to lower the risk of hypertension for women older than 39. Both studies were reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2007;85:392-398 and 718-723).

The Brooklyn team analyzed 426 CV deaths among 6,594 subjects who were 32-86 years of age with no history of CVD. Among those older than 65, a direct correlation turned up between higher caffeine intake and a lower risk of fatal heart disease. Those who consumed 0.5-2 servings a day had a 23% lower CVD death rate during nine years of follow-up; those who had 2-4 servings a day had 32% lower death rate, and those who drank fewer than four servings had a 53% lower death rate.

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No significant CVD protection was found for decaffeinated beverages, colas, or regular teas or among those younger than 65.

In the Netherlands, researchers followed 6,368 residents of a small city for 11 years, finding that overall, those who drank no coffee had a lower hypertension risk than those who drank fewer than three cups a day. But women older than 39 who drank more than three cups a day had a 17% lower risk of hypertension, and those who had six or more cups daily had a 33% lower risk than those who consumed none. The risk for men did not change significantly regardless of how much caffeine they drank.