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Heart Disease Health Center

Coffee May Trigger Heart Attack

Attacks After Single Cup, Light Drinkers Most at Risk
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 15, 2006 -- That cup of coffee you're craving might not be such a good idea.

Research in the September issue of Epidemiology suggests coffee can trigger a heart attack within an hour in some people.

Java junkies can take some comfort from the finding that the risk was highest among light coffee drinkers (those who consumed up to one cup a day).

For those people, the risk of heart attack increased fourfold when they indulged.

Couch potatoes and those with other risk factors for heart disease were also at greater risk of having a heart attack after drinking a cup of coffee, the study showed.

As a result of these findings, "people at high risk for a heart attack who are occasional or regular coffee drinkers might consider quitting coffee altogether," says researcher Ana Baylin, a research associate at Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, RI, in a news release.

Baylin, who works in the department of nutrition at Brown, adds that for these individuals, a cup of coffee could be "the straw that broke the camel's back."

Baylin and colleagues suggest caffeine causes short-term increases in blood pressure and sympathetic nervous activity that could trigger a heart attack.

On the other hand, previous studies have shown coffee drinkers may be at decreased risk for Parkinson's disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancers.

Risk Highest for Light Drinkers

In the new study, moderate coffee drinkers (those who consumed two or three cups a day) raised their risk of having a heart attack by 60% by drinking a cup of coffee.

But light coffee drinkers increased their risk of heart attack by more than four times with one cup, according to the study. Little effect was seen among heavy coffee drinkers (those who drank four or more cups per day). What's more, coffee drinkers who have three or more risk factors for heart disease more than doubled their risk of sustaining a heart attack after downing a cup.

The new study was based on 503 cases of nonfatal heart attacks in Costa Rica.

The researchers asked participants about their coffee consumption in the hours and days before their heart attack.

Although the study was conducted in Costa Rica, the researchers say the results are relevant to the U.S. because Americans and Costa Ricans have similar caffeine habits.

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