Coffee is in the clear over links to heart disease

A study shows that heavy, long-term coffee drinking does not raise the risk of heart disease for most of us

Go ahead and have that second cup of coffee — and a third and fourth — without worrying about your health. A study published recently shows heavy, long-term coffee drinking does not raise the risk of heart disease for most of us. The research project, which followed 128,000 men and women for as long as 20 years, showed drinking filtered coffee — not percolated or French-style brews — did not raise the risk of heart disease. Heavy coffee drinkers did tend to smoke and drink alcohol more often and those two factors clearly do raise heart risk, the researchers report in the journal Circulation.

“We believe this study clearly shows there is no association between filtered coffee consumption and coronary heart disease,” said Esther Lopez-Garcia, an instructor in the School of Medicine at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain, who worked on the study. “This lack of effect is good news, because coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world. But this does not mean that everyone can overload on coffee with impunity,” said Rob Van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“We can’t exclude the association between coffee consumption and the risk of heart disease in small groups of people,” Van Dam added. A study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that those men and women with a ‘slow’ version of a particular liver enzyme gene had a higher risk of heart disease if they drank more coffee, compared to those with a fast-metabolising version. Liver enzymes metabolise coffee and many other compounds.

And several studies have shown a link with heart disease and copious drinking of French press coffee, made using a mesh filter instead of a paper drip filter, or percolated coffee. The Harvard and Madrid teams used data from two ongoing studies — the allmale Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which began in 1986, and the allfemale Nurses’ Health Study, which started in 1976. Volunteers in both studies fill out periodic questionnaires about their diet, exercise and other health habits and undergo regular physical exams.

The researchers found more than half the women and 30 per cent of men who drank six or more cups of coffee a day were also more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol and use aspirin. They were also less likely to drink tea, exercise or take vitamin supplements. But once these factors were accounted for, there was no difference in heart attack risks between the very light and heavy coffee drinkers. A study published last November found no link between coffee drinking and high blood pressure, but there was an apparent association with drinking caffeinated fizzy drinks.

Could small changes increase life expectancy?

Making small changes such as quitting smoking, exercising more and eating better could increase your life expectancy by 11 to 12 years, says a study. Researchers led by Professor Kay-Tee Khaw studied 25,663 men and women aged between 45 and 79 years from 1993 onwards in Norfolk and found small lifestyle changes could have a significant impact on how long you live.

The study that looked into their diet, environment, lifestyle and health asked participants to regularly fill questionnaires about these and had periodic check-ups from nurses. Results from the study showed eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day can give you the life expectancy of someone three years younger. Not smoking can turn the clock back by four to five years. Even increasing exercise by a moderate amount can take up to three years off.

But the amount of exercise someone would need to do to achieve that depends on his or her job. An office worker would need to do one hour of exercise, such as swimming or jogging, every day, while a person with a moderately active job, such as a hairdresser, would need 30 minutes exercise a day.

People with active jobs, including nurses and bricklayers, do not need to do any extra exercise — as their work is strenuous enough. “Many of us find it difficult to change our usual lifestyle,” said Khaw. “However, there is increasing evidence that even relatively small changes can make a big difference to our health and well being,” he added.


With an increase in the noise levels in most of our cities today, deafness is one condition that is on the rise.

Hearing is a faculty, which is developed and used very early, even by the unborn child. This ability to hear should remain with us till the very end of our lives. But, as with many other problems of civilised life, deterioration of hearing occurs much faster nowadays, as compared to a decade or two ago.

Some years ago, deafness used to be predominantly an old age problem (in the age group of 65 plus). Today we are seeing more and more people in the 45 to 65 years age group, turning deaf. Let us take a look at what has brought about this change, who is responsible and, more importantly, what can be done about it.

What causes deafness?
Hearing loss can be temporary — as in case of a severe cold, where fluid may accumulate in the ear cavity — or permanent — when the bones, the cochlea or the nerves are damaged.

Common causes include:

a) Old age or senile deafness
b) Medicines, which as a side effect may damage the nerves. eg Streptomycin, which is used in the treatment of TB.
c) Viral fevers like Mumps etc.
d) Long term exposure to high level of noise — people working in factories, alongside roads with high traffic, airports etc
e) Sudden one time exposure to high intensity sound, like a firecracker going off very near your ears, or an aircraft taking off or landing.
f) Long standing accumulations of middle ear fluid.
g) Diseases like diabetes, blood pressure also contribute to deafness.
h) Degenerative diseases of the ears.

Deafness as a psychological problem:
Apart from the actual handicap of not being able to hear, deaf people also have plenty of psychological problems. Since they hear less, they start feeling that all family members are talking in whispers and are conspiring against them. Also, due to fear of humiliation, these people tend to be withdrawn and socially inactive. Family members also get irritated, as they have to shout at the person in order to have a conversation. Also, deaf people tend to blare television and radio sets, leading to more frustration and anger around them.

Other problems of deafness:
A deaf person cannot hear the ringing of the telephone or the bell, and there are instances of family members being stranded outside the house and ringing the bell for hours together. A deaf person also cannot hear Hearing loss occurs when the are damaged the noise or horns of vehicles, making it a danger to himself/herself to venture out on the road.

Precautions to be taken:
  1. Protect your ears in noisy environments with ear plugs/muffs etc. All persons working daily in noisy areas should also get their hearing tested regularly.
  2. Never put anything sharp into the ears.
  3. Check with your doctor when taking medicines, whether any of the prescribed medicines are toxic to the ear.
  4. Avoid listening to high intensity music, especially using a portable music player.
  5. Diwali is not only a fire and burns hazard, it also results in a lot of cases of deafness-so, take care.
  6. Get your coughs, colds and ear infections treat- cochlea or the nerves ed at the earliest with your doctor.
  7. Never hit children anywhere near the ear region.

What to do if your suspect diminished hearing

Consult an audiologist or and ENT surgeon at the earliest. With the help of clinical examination and a couple of hearing tests (Audiometry), one can easily find out the type and extent of deafness. These tests are not very expensive and can give you the results on the same day.


  • Most cases of hearing loss due to conduction problems — wax in the ear, ruptured drum, middle ear fluid, damage to the bones of the ear, etc respond to medicines or surgery.
  • Deafness due to damage to the cochlea or the nerves does not improve with medicines or surgery and such individuals can benefit tremendously by wearing hearing aids.
  • But, still in our country, wearing a hearing aid has its own stigma attached to it. But, there is hope. Today’s hearing aids are highly sophisticated, computerised with excellent digital sound and miniaturised to such an extent as to be completely invisible.
  • Also, one needs to get over such myths that a hearing aid actually worsens hearing or that one gets used to it. In fact, by reaching the sounds to the few undamaged nerves, the hearing aid actually helps in keeping them functioning.

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