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Coffee and Stroke Risk: Comparing the Benefits & Drawbacks

Stroke survivor holding coffee cup and looking out window

Studies examining the association between coffee and stroke have had mixed results. While most of the evidence seems to indicate that coffee can actually help reduce the risk of stroke, it can also increase stroke risk in people with certain conditions.

Today’s article will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of coffee and other caffeinated drinks after stroke. We will also show you a few caffeine alternatives that can also reduce stroke risk.  

There is an abundance of research that indicates that coffee consumption and stroke are inversely related. In other words, the more coffee a person drinks, the lower their risk of stroke.

For instance, in a 2018 review of 18 studies, moderate consumption of coffee had a demonstrated protective effect against stroke.

In addition, a large cohort study of over 83,000 female participants followed for 24 years found a significant decrease in stroke risk in those who consumed coffee regularly.   

Finally, a study of over 80,000 Japanese adults revealed that people who drank at least one cup of coffee per day had a 20% lower risk of stroke compared to those who hardly drank it.

Therefore, the research seems to indicate that coffee and tea, in moderate amounts, can be beneficial for individuals after stroke. However, there are some important caveats.

Who Shouldn’t Drink Coffee?

doctor explaining to patient the relationship between coffee and stroke

Although coffee contains many benefits, it is not suitable for everyone.

For example, those with severe hypertension should avoid caffeinated drinks, as caffeine can cause a short term yet dramatic spike in blood pressure. Since hypertension is a leading cause of stroke, anything that worsens your blood pressure has the potential to significantly increase your risk of stroke.

In addition, some studies show that high levels of caffeine can block the release of adenosine, a neuroprotective agent that brings down inflammation and promotes brain healing. As a result, drinking too much caffeine could potentially slow down the stroke recovery process.

It’s also important to look at how coffee is consumed.

While coffee and stroke are positively linked for most people, don’t let additives take away the benefits. When you load coffee with processed sugar and creamers, it creates more problems.

Processed and artificial sweeteners actually increase your risk of stroke, which negates the benefit of drinking coffee in the first place. Therefore, try taking your coffee black. If that doesn’t sound appealing, there is still good news.

There are ways to access the health benefits of coffee without the harmful effects of caffeine.

Benefits of Caffeine vs. Antioxidants

overhead view of bowl of healthy fruit and cup of coffee

The true benefits of coffee and green tea reside in their potent antioxidants.

Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which are harmful molecules linked to the development of blood vessel disease (atherosclerosis). Since atherosclerosis and stroke are closely connected, this makes antioxidants one of the best nutrients for patients after stroke.

Coffee is packed with antioxidants, but for those who would prefer to avoid caffeine, you can get antioxidants from a variety of foods, such as:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kale
  • Pecans
  • Red grapes

It’s always best to talk to your doctor to see if a cup of coffee is a good decision for you or not. Your doctor is familiar with your pre-existing health conditions, and is a great source for health advice.

Understanding the Relationship Between Coffee and Stroke

In the end, drinking coffee in moderation can reduce stroke risk and boost your intake of antioxidants. This, therefore, makes it a generally safe and positive practice.

To prevent the harmful effects of sugary drinks, patients should opt for black coffee most of the time. However, those with hypertension would do better to avoid it altogether.

We hope this article on the link between coffee and stroke helps you make more informed and healthy decisions. Good luck!

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