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Coffee safe for many with abnormal heart rhythms

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Caffeine can send the heart racing, but for some people it may help prevent abnormal heartbeats, according to Australian researchers report which found coffee and tea are safe and may sometimes reduce the frequency of abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

To see how caffeine affects patients with the common heart rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation, Kistler and colleagues looked at eight previously published studies.

The report published (April 16) in the journal JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology suggest that up to 300 milligrams of caffeine a day may be safe for patients with abnormal heartbeats.

In addition, the researchers found that caffeine had no effect on abnormal heartbeats in the lower chambers of the heart, called ventricular arrhythmias.

“Although coffee increases your heart rate, it does not make it abnormal,” explained senior researcher Dr. Peter Kistler, director of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.

“We found that there is no detrimental effects of coffee on heart rhythm and, in fact, coffee at up to three cups per day may be protective,” he added.

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Some people, however, may notice palpitations after drinking coffee, and those folks should avoid caffeine, Kistler added.

“We have completed the largest review of the medical literature to date to determine the relationship between coffee and arrhythmias, or abnormal heartbeats,” he said.

Kistler’s group found that, among more than 228,000 patients, drinking coffee cut the frequency of episodes of atrial fibrillation by 6 percent. A further analysis of nearly 116,000 patients found a 13 percent risk reduction.

One cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine and acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system. Caffeine also blocks adenosine, a chemical that can trigger atrial fibrillation, Kistler explained.

As many as six cups of coffee a day, about 500 milligrams of caffeine, did not increase the severity or rate of ventricular arrhythmias, the study authors said.

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Moreover, one study of 103 heart attack patients who got about 353 milligrams of caffeine a day found improved heart rate and no significant arrhythmias, according to the new report.

Two studies, however, found an increase in the risk for ventricular arrhythmias among patients who drank as much as nine or 10 cups of coffee a day.

But Kistler’s team did find that patients with heart conditions should avoid caffeinated energy drinks. These drinks can each contain 160 to 500 milligrams of concentrated caffeine.

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Regular physical activity may reduce heart attack risk even in highly polluted areas

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Regular physical activity may reduce the risk of heart attack, even in areas with moderate-to-high levels of traffic pollution, a study has claimed.

Higher levels of pollution were associated with more heart attacks, however, the risk was lower among those who were physically active, the researchers found in the study published in the Journal of the American Heart.

“While exercise is known to reduce cardiovascular disease risk; pollution can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks, asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease,” said lead author Nadine Kubesch from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“Currently there is little data on whether poor air quality cancels out the protective benefits of physical activity in preventing heart attacks,” Kubesch added.

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Researchers in Denmark, Germany and Spain evaluated outdoor physical activity levels (sports, cycling, walking and gardening) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2 pollutant generated by traffic) exposure in 51,868 adults, aged 50-65.

Over a 17.7-year period, there were 2,936 first heart attacks and 324 recurrent heart attacks.

Moderate cycling for four or more hours per week cut risk for recurrent heart attack by 31 per cent; and there was a 58 per cent reduction when all four types of physical activity (together totalling four hours per week or more) were combined, regardless of air quality.

Those who participated in sports had a 15 per cent lower rate of initial heart attacks and there was a 9 per cent risk reduction associated with cycling, regardless of air quality, the researchers said.

Compared to participants with low residential NO2 exposure, those in higher risk areas had a 17 per cent increase risk in first heart attack and 39 per cent for recurrent heart attack, the researchers noted.

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