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By: Lindsey Loving Date: 2/29/12

Although American Heart Month is coming to an end, we should keep heart health in mind throughout the year.

However, this doesn’t mean having to feel deprived all year. Think about the foods you can eat more of for heart health, like foods containing healthful fats, such as salmon and walnuts (two of my favorites), or foods that you can still enjoy in moderation. For example, you may have heard that you should cut back on caffeine because of heart health concerns. However, research shows that moderate amounts of caffeine do not harm your heart. Did your heart just skip a beat?

Yes, you can consume that morning cup of coffee or soft drink at lunchtime without fear of hurting your heart. In fact, common misperceptions that caffeine causes high blood pressure and increases risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke are not supported by the scientific research. Moderate amounts of caffeine – that is, 300 mg per day, or about three 8-ounce cups of coffee – is safe for the general population and do not cause heart conditions.

Research shows that caffeine does not cause high blood pressure. Some people may see a slight increase in blood pressure after consuming caffeine, but this increase is temporary and can be compared to the increase from climbing a flight of stairs. However, those with high blood pressure or a history of heart disease should monitor their caffeine intake and consult with a health professional about their caffeine intake.

In addition, studies have shown that moderate amounts of caffeine do not cause or increase risk of CHD or cardiac arrhythmia. In fact, research has found that coffee may help decrease risk of type 2 diabetes and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

Caffeine comes from a variety of sources, all of which count toward your daily intake. In addition to coffee, other food sources include tea, carbonated beverages, energy drinks, chocolate and some coffee-flavored foods. Some pain medication can also contain caffeine. Check the ingredients label for caffeine – many products also list the amount.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Review, “Caffeine and Health: Clarifying the Controversies,” contains a table of common caffeinated foods and beverages and amounts of caffeine per serving to help you calculate your daily intake.

Eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise is important year-round, not just during heart health month, so put your heart into it and enjoy your morning pick-me-up too!

More information: Fact Sheet: Caffeine and Health 

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