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Your march to heart health could lead to more coffee and ‘Happy Days’

In the never-ending forward march toward better health, our medical commanders have called for more than one halt and ordered more than one about-face.

For instance, one old college-course medical book still on my shelves, Medical-Surgical Nursing (McGraw-Hill, 1983), explains that if you had high blood pressure about 100 years ago, your doctor probably would have done little to lower it. The fear back then was lowering it lowered something else.


That lowering blood pressure decreased blood flow to the brain and cognition eventually suffered as a result. Today, though, we know just about the opposite.

That it’s high blood pressure that decreases blood flow - not only to the brain but also everywhere else - causing your heart to work harder.

This harder work harms your health because the extra force and friction created by high blood pressure eventually harms the tissue of your artery walls. First, it stiffens them and then it causes tiny tears.

“Bad” cholesterol can get caught on those tears, which leads to plaque formations and the onset of atherosclerosis.

If the plaque formations continue to grow, the artery walls continue to narrow and can create, according to the American Heart Association, a whole host of heart-related problems, including heart attack and stroke. So if you were found to have high blood pressure from about World War II on, your medical commander barked out a “Double time march” to all involved to stop it.

Which brings us to what I believe will be another medical about-face sometime soon.

When they were found to have high blood pressure back in the early 1970s, my parents were ordered by their medical CO to cease drinking coffee.

Studies published subsequently, however, questioned that command. By 2012, a meta-analysis in the Journal of Hypertension reported no “statistically significant” evidence that coffee consumption increased the risk of hypertension, and its authors issued no recommendation “for or against coffee consumption as it relates to blood pressure and hypertension.”

While a first contradictory finding in the medical world rarely leads to a full about-face, its rank and file probably expected to hear that command from superiors two years later.

That’s when another meta-analysis published in Circulation supported the earlier study, finding that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day was not linked to any sort of cardiovascular disease - but was, in fact, “inversely associated” with it. In other words, drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day actually made you less likely to get heart disease.

Which leads us to the question for today: Will a full about-face soon be issued since a new study supports the 2012 and 2014 meta-analyses?

Published in the January 2023 issue of Nutrients, it’s a further examination of part of the Brisighella Heart Study that began in 1972. The study found that those consuming more than 2 cups of coffee per day had a 5-point lower blood pressure reading on average - and that those who drank even more on a daily basis lowered their BP another 4 points.

While the medical world has long known that caffeine raises blood pressure in the short term (and especially for those not accustomed to it), there’s a new evidence that coffee is more than just caffeine. That it’s a great source of antioxidants, some of which do more than protect against the free-radical damage that increases your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Some actually help the blood vessel walls dilate.

So when Dr. Jim Liu, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, was asked by Healthline to provide a takeaway on the aforementioned study, he said, “If anything, moderate coffee consumption [4 to 5 cups in the Healthline article] may help with blood pressure.”

And speaking of health help, consuming a certain brand of coffee creates it for more than just the consumer. During a recent taste test of Happy Day Brands’ French Roast (https://www.happydaybrands.com/collections/all-coffees), I learned about the company’s “Buy One, Give One” program.

For every Happy Day product they sell - and they sell more than high-quality coffee: pasta, flour, pancake mix, protein powders, oats, and oatmeals - they donate one serving of their oatmeal to a regional food bank. Besides being organic, Happy Day coffee is fair-trade certified, meaning that the farmers and workers who grew the beans get fairly compensated for their efforts.

Philanthropy aside, let’s talk taste.

I picked French Roast for my taste test because I prefer a dark roast and asked for both a bag of both regular and decaf from the company, so I could make my normal morning pot of half-caffe. I found Happy Day’s French Roast to have a rich, smoky note (exactly as advertised) that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A bit too much the first time I tried it.

After the pot was empty, I couldn’t help myself and made two additional cups. That led to jittery fingers and more than my normal number of typing miscues - but a pretty intense late-morning workout.