I have reported to you before on the surprising memory-enhancing effects of caffeinated coffee. Not only does caffeinated coffee have well-known immediate effects on alertness, mood, attention, and energy, but it also has very positive long-term effects.
Several studies have shown that the more coffee you drink, the longer you will maintain good cognitive function. But what about people who already have medical conditions that accelerate cognitive decline, such as cardiovascular disease? Can they benefit just as much from drinking coffee?
Researchers looked at a group of 2,824 female health professionals who were all older than 65 years. Each of these women had a much higher risk for cognitive decline because of their cardiovascular disease. Some of them had angina, and some had already had a heart attack, a stroke, or a procedure like bypass surgery or angioplasty. Others had a combination of risk factors for cardiovascular disease like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. This was not a healthy group.
Each of the women had an initial battery of five different tests for cognitive function. Then, over the next four to six years they completed the same battery of tests three to four times. Also during the same time, the researchers monitored how much total caffeine they were drinking each day. That included coffee, decaffeinated coffee, soda drinks, chocolate, and tea. What they found out might just send you down to Starbucks for a second serving.
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The women who drank the least coffee had the greatest amount of cognitive decline. The women who drank at least four cups per day had the least decline. And the amazing thing is that this relationship was seen only with coffee. The other sources of caffeine did not have the protective effect. Caffeine was effective only when it was in coffee. The net difference in testing amounted to a difference in seven years. In other words, the women who drank four cups per day tested on average like women who were seven years younger. In addition, all the results were statistically significant. Here's something else interesting.
The researchers looked to see if there was any kind of relationship between coffee intake and other lifestyle factors that might have influenced the results. They found that neither the cardiovascular state of the women, their overall age, alcohol use, diabetes, hypertension or taking vitamin C, E, or beta-carotene made a difference in how effectively they responded to coffee. Even smoking did not change the number! But there was one thing that did enhance coffee's memory-preserving abilities. I'll tell you all about it next week.
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