From gaining better focus, improved mood, and longer lifespan to increased levels of anxiety, insomnia, and heart rate — the most commonly consumed beverage in the world is known to kick our bodies into high gear, for better and for worse.
Of the 90% of adults in the U.S. who drink caffeine every day, most of us are sipping on the same stimulant. Ahh, coffee. Without it, I’m a corpse; too much and I’m a wild horse, am I right?! Over time, after years of swallowing nature’s speed, how could coffee impact our wellbeing, especially in the midst of midlife?
Researchers have long been curious about the complicated ways coffee could curb, cure, or create health conditions. Here’s what they’ve found: Coffee heads are less likely to develop chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and some cancers. Research also shows that those who drink coffee are more physically active than those who don’t. A few studies suggest coffee drinkers are also less likely to die from common chronic illnesses. Not only does a daily cup of joe help us stay awake longer, it might help us live longer, too!
Like many good things in life, too much coffee might cause problems. Some people find coffee triggers symptoms like increased heart rate and sleeplessness, which can lead to many other health issues. And if you take yours with cream or sugar, you’re likely putting yourself at greater risk of conditions such as diabetes, especially once you start menopause.
Perimenopausal and menopausal women should pay attention to the ways caffeine affects their bodies. For one, caffeine exacerbates menopausal vasomotor symptoms — most commonly, hot flashes and night sweats — because of the constriction or dilation of blood vessels. Plus, the drug acts as a major trigger for anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, and fatigue — all common symptoms we GALs face during this hormonal time anyway.
As Sally Duffin writes, our tolerance to caffeine can change over time, and menopause may impact the way you handle your usual daily dose. If you’re facing newly negative reactions to caffeine, try to slowly introduce decaffeinated options or more watered-down/herbal alternatives.
Not only does research show that it can stave off physical health conditions, but each cup of coffee contains potential neurological benefits, too. Naturally occurring polyphenols in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee can act as antioxidants to reduce damaging oxidative stress and cell inflammation. This suggests that coffee can act as a natural antidepressant.
In fact, one study found that those who drank four or more cups of coffee per day were almost 10% less likely to become depressed than those who drank none. Another study found that those who drank more coffee (four or more cups a day) had a 24% reduced risk of depression than those who had less (less than one cup). Another even found that those who consumed more caffeine faced lower risks of suicide.
While universally loved and enjoyed, caffeinated coffee affects each of us uniquely. Different amounts may be suitable from one person to the next. Roughly speaking, the “safe zone” for healthy adults is anything under 400 milligrams of caffeine a day — which is about four or five cups of coffee, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Less, of course, if you plan to have a caffeinated soda or tea later in the day, which can contain as much as 100 mg of caffeine per cup.
While a large body of evidence suggests coffee is associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, some people may not be able to tolerate caffeine because of its symptoms of jitteriness, anxiety, and insomnia. Specifically, those who have trouble controlling their blood pressure or those who are pregnant may want to opt for decaf or less caffeine in general.
Ultimately, the relationship between coffee and our health is complex. Coffee and Real-time Atrial and Ventricular Ectopy (CRAVE) study author Dr. Gregory Marcus, associate chief of cardiology research at the University of California, states: “More physical activity, which appears to be prompted by coffee consumption, has numerous health benefits, such as reduced risks of type 2 diabetes and several cancers, and is associated with greater longevity. On the other hand, reduced sleep is associated with a variety of adverse psychiatric, neurologic, and cardiovascular outcomes.”
Coffee may be the world’s most popular pick-me-up for its immediate benefits to our energy levels, and it could also prevent life-threatening diseases. But because of the potential negative side effects some people experience when drinking caffeine, and knowing how our bodies shift and change during hormonal transitions, keep an eye on how much brew is right for you.
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