Green tea and coffee may help lower your risk of having a stroke, especially when both are a regular part of your diet, according to research from Japan's National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center.
The lead researcher said, "You may make a small but positive lifestyle change to help lower the risk of stroke by adding daily green tea to your diet."
Researchers asked 83,269 Japanese adults about their green tea and coffee drinking habits, following them for an average 13 years. They found that the more green tea or coffee people drink, the lower their stroke risks.
- People who drank at least one cup of coffee daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those who rarely drank it.
- People who drank two to three cups of green tea daily had a 14 percent lower risk of stroke and those who had at least four cups had a 20 percent lower risk, compared to those who rarely drank it.
- People who drank at least one cup of coffee or two cups of green tea daily had a 32 percent lower risk of intracerebral hemorrhage, compared to those who rarely drank either beverage. (Intracerebral hemorrhage happens when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds inside the brain. About 13 percent of strokes are hemorrhagic.)
A typical cup of coffee or tea in Japan was approximately six ounces. Participants in the study were 45 to 74 years old, almost evenly divided in gender, and were free from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
During the 13-years of follow-up, researchers reviewed participants' hospital medical records and death certificates, collecting data about heart disease, strokes and causes of death. They adjusted their findings to account for age, sex and lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol, weight, diet and exercise.
Green tea drinkers in the study were more likely to exercise compared to non-drinkers.
Previous limited research has shown green tea's link to lower death risks from heart disease, but has only touched on its association with lower stroke risks.
Initial study results showed that drinking more than two cups of coffee daily was linked to increasing coronary heart disease rates. But researchers didn't find the association after factoring in the effects of cigarette smoking -- underscoring smoking's negative health impact on heart and stroke health.
According to the researchers, the regular action of drinking tea, coffee, largely benefits cardiovascular health because it partly keeps blood clots from forming.
It's unclear how green tea affects stroke risk. A compound group known as catechins may provide some protection. Catechins have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which may help keep blood vessels healthy.
A natural chemical in coffee called chlorogenic acid is thought to reduce stroke risk by lowering the chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Source: Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, March 2013
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