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  • Writer's pictureDr. Gupta

The Surprising Truth about Coffee and Brain Health

Would you rather give up your phone for a month rather than skip your morning cup of coffee? Almost half of Americans agree with you, according to one social media poll.

Still, with more than 400 million cups of java consumed each day nationwide, you may wonder about the impact on your health. A recent study confirms that the beverage you love probably poses little risk, unless you consume more than 6 cups a day.

That seems to be the point at which coffee may shrink brain volume and increase the risk for stroke and dementia by 53%. The research was conducted by the University of South Australia and is the largest of its kind to date.

As long as you consume coffee in moderation, you can probably enjoy the flavor, along with its many impressive health benefits. Learn more about how to make your coffee habit work for you.

How to Drink Coffee in Moderation

The average American drinks about 3 cups of coffee a day, well under the FDA recommendation of 4 servings or less.

If you need to cut back, try these tips:

1. Taper down. Caffeine headaches are real. If you stop abruptly, your blood vessels may suddenly enlarge and put uncomfortable pressure on the nerves surrounding your brain. Slow down gradually instead.

2. Shrink your cups. How big is your mug? The industry standard is 6 ounces, so you may be drinking more than you realize.

3. Start later. Do you need coffee to wake up in the morning? Consider a glass of water instead. You’ll feel more alert when you’re rehydrated, and you can sit down with your coffee when you get to work.

4. Change brands. Espresso tastes more intense, but it has less caffeine than regular coffee. That’s because it’s made with arabica beans rather than robusta. You may also want to try decaf or mix regular and decaffeinated coffee together.

5. Drink water. Heavy coffee consumption may leave little room in your diet for the water your brain needs. Carry a refillable bottle around with you.

Other Tips for Brain Health

Your lifestyle has a major impact on how your brain functions. Some changes are natural with age, but you can slow down cognitive decline.

Try these techniques:

1. Limit alcohol. Even moderate drinking may shrink your brain and change its structure. Schedule days off from alcohol and talk with your doctor if you need help.

2. Quit smoking. Tobacco thins your cerebral cortex and interferes with circulation. Make a plan and pick a date to say goodbye to cigarettes. Call the CDC hotline 1-800-QUIT-NOW for more information and ideas.

3. Exercise regularly. Your body and brain are closely connected. Stay fit with a balanced program of aerobic and resistance workouts.

4. Sleep well. While you’re lying in bed, your brain is busy recovering from its daily work. Give it the rest it needs. Stick to a consistent early bedtime and keep your bedroom dark and quiet.

5. Manage stress. Chronic tension causes inflammation and premature aging. Slow down the process by finding relaxation practices that match your needs. Do relaxing stretching exercises or listen to instrumental music. Talk with a family member or friend when you feel blue.

6. Stay engaged. Learning and socializing stimulate your brain. Make room in your calendar for parties, reading, and other fun activities.

Let’s be grateful that something as delicious as coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle! Multiple studies have found that it sharpens your focus, boosts your mood, and may even lower your risk for certain cancers. Keep your body and brain in top shape with moderate coffee consumption and other positive habits.

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