Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. From relishing that first sip of hot brew in the morning to lounging with a delicious combination of espresso and dessert in the evening, coffee is a staple for many older adults. But, believe it or not, coffee is one of the most controversial food topics circulating the aging community.  Some people believe caffeine is bad for their health, while others believe it positively affects them. We know seniors love their coffee, but the question is, does it love them back? It is my goal to provide you with five positive attributes of drinking coffee, along with 5 negative responses that seniors may experience. You may then evaluate this information to make an informed decision for you and your lifestyle.

Positive benefit number one: coffee may be the answer to help prevent dementia. A recent study found that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day in middle age is associated with a decreased risk of cognitive decline at late-life by 65%. While this sounds great, it was only one study and no concrete conclusions can be drawn from it.  Number two: coffee has been shown to increase energy levels and mood. Coffee is not just a morning-time beverage to start your day. Studies show coffee can help you feel more awake by increasing the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain. Basically, the caffeine in coffee stimulates the nervous system and makes you feel alert. So, if you are ever low on energy or feeling sluggish due to age, it may be time for some java iced up with cream and sugar. 

Since coffee contains caffeine, a natural diuretic, research has shown that caffeinated coffee is 60% more active than water in stimulating movement within the colon, while decaf only makes up 23%. This means that benefit number 3 for aging adults looking for little relief should try drinking some black coffee in the morning to help get things moving along. However, if you have a loose stool, it is recommended to stay away from caffeinated beverages and sticking to decaf coffee. Benefit number 4 focuses on the potential to reduce Type 2 Diabetes. People who are overweight are most prone to develop type 2 diabetes. If you drink coffee, the caffeine decreases insulin in your blood by suppressing the release of glucose from your liver. So, pour yourself a cup of Joe, get off that couch, and hit that treadmill – it’s scientifically proven and you’ll thank yourself later on down the line.

Finally, coffee consumption may decrease the risk for stroke. Coffee has been found to reduce inflammation and can decrease the likelihood of myocardial infarction and stroke. In a collection of studies reported by the US National Library of Medicine, consuming 4+ cups of coffee per day showed a preventive effect on stroke. Coffee is also linked with a higher level of physical activity, which helps lower blood pressure and lose weight. Both are significant factors to decreasing the likelihood of a stroke. 

While there are five potential benefits listed above for coffee consumption, I need to point out some adverse reactions that can occur with this consumption.  First off, coffee can easily lead to dehydration. Simply put, the more coffee you drink, the more bathroom trips you will have which can lead to dehydration. Next, coffee consumption can cause heart palpitations as a result of the caffeine in the drink. If you notice an irregular heartbeat, you should avoid drinking caffeinated coffee. Another potential adverse effect is that while many seniors enjoy their morning cup of coffee, they should be careful not to drink it too late in the day. Why? Because caffeine can disrupt sleep cycles, leading to insomnia when consumed after 6 p.m. Seniors should pay attention to the time of day they are consuming coffee. The caffeine in coffee can help seniors feel more awake, alert, and focused for hours after drinking it. But too much of this stimulant can cause anxiety which is the fourth potential negative reaction to drinking coffee. The final negative physiological reaction may be an upset stomach. Our digestive system runs on acid, meaning we need acids to break down the food and beverages we drink throughout the day. The problem occurs when we have too much gastro acid in our stomach. Coffee is acidic, so when you drink coffee, it is adding more acid to your stomach.

I hope this information helps you make good decisions on your consumption of coffee. If you would like a further explanation or consultation please call Amada Senior Care at 615-933-7494 and ask for me.

Kevin B. Fehr, CSA, Certified Senior Advisor President & CEO, Amada Senior Care

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